The Centering Pregnancy Model of Care

The Centering Pregnancy program is a group care model for 6-10 pregnant women with similar gestational ages who come together under the guidance of the certified nurse-midwife and assisting medical professional responsible for facilitating the group. They meet during 10 sessions over 6 months. Centering is becoming very popular because it has led to better health outcomes and increased patient and provider satisfaction with prenatal care. Two hundred and fifty-three women have participated in 30 Centering Pregnancy groups at Mary's Center from 2013 to 2015.

Each individual woman receives personalized prenatal medical care and is encouraged to take charge of her health by learning how to take her own vitals and measurements. Clinicians are able to interact with patients during a longer time slot than a standard individual appointment. Centering participants get the added benefit of receiving culturally-appropriate childbirth education that incorporates practical recommendations for achieving a healthy pregnancy and positive labor and delivery experience.

Educational themes include nutrition, mental health, family planning, stress reduction and exercise, reflecting Mary’s Center commitment to providing multidisciplinary and holistic health, education and social services to our patients. Grouping participants by due date helps build community and normalize the pregnancy experience, as women witness their peers confronting similar issues. Over time, they develop a long-term support network and foster strong bonds that can extend into parenting. At the end of their sessions, patients report feeling “more prepared” to give birth and “feeling supported” by their peers and providers.

The Centering Pregnancy model is especially effective for underserved mothers who lack access to comprehensive quality prenatal education. Disadvantaged communities, especially Hispanic women of childbearing age, have disproportionately high rates of negative perinatal outcomes. In Washington DC, premature birth rates related to low birth weight have continually been among the highest in the nation. DC also has the highest disparity index, which measures differences in preterm birth rates across racial and ethnic groups within a geographical area. In 2014, the preterm birth rate in DC was 9.6%. In contrast, the percentage of Centering participants at Mary’s Center who gave birth prematurely was as low as 7%.

The outcomes recorded demonstrate the advantages to combining medical care with prenatal education and group support, as achieved through the Centering Pregnancy curriculum. Thanks to the generous grant from CareFirst, Mary’s Center has been able to successfully implement the Centering Pregnancy program to better serve disadvantaged prenatal patients, reduce the risk of preterm delivery and help improve maternal and child health outcomes in the DC area.  


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