In 2016, Swedish Covenant Hospital’s midwifery practice introduced a new model for prenatal care – CenteringPregnancy. The program provides group care to expectant mothers. As the first cohort reached their due dates in December, 5 of the ten inaugural mothers found themselves on the labor and delivery unit at the same time, extending the community of support that is at the core of the model. The program was made possible through a grant from VNA Foundation.
“The CenteringPregnancy model has had a really impactful change physically and emotionally for patients,” said Lily Sarmiento, Centering clinical coordinator. “Expectant moms feel better informed and comment that through the group model, they are getting answers to questions that they hadn’t even thought to ask.”
CenteringPregnancy replaces one-on-one prenatal visits with group sessions to promote greater patient engagement, empowerment, and community-building. The Centering model empowers women by valuing the experience each woman brings to the group, while building knowledge through skill-building and education. Centering also supports the development of a social network of mothers who can support one another.
“Being able to go through the pregnancy experience with other women and have that social aspect, while also learning from each other, made a big difference,” Casey Clevenger said. Casey was a member of the second Centering cohort and recently gave birth to her son, James.
Each Centering cohort consists of 8-12 women with similar due dates, giving members a community of support from women at the same point in pregnancy. The group meets 10 times, beginning at 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. During meetings, each woman receives an individual exam. A group discussion is then facilitated on a range of topics, from nutrition and exercise, to childbirth preparation and parenting. Since June 2015, 53 women and their partners have participated in the program.
It was the group discussions that Casey found most valuable. In addition to presentations by the midwives who facilitated the group, speakers from various disciplines at Swedish Covenant Hospital provided information that she believed she wouldn’t have accessed through a traditional model. For example, a labor and delivery nurse presented different tools and props that can be used during childbirth.
In addition to educational opportunities, Lily observed how social connections have formed through groups, which has helped to lessen the isolation that many expectant mothers and new moms experience. Many group members have formed friendships that extend beyond group time, including the December cohort, who are already planning a swimming date for their newborns, and another mother who provided baby clothes from her previous child to a group member.
Results from the initial six months of the program show that the program has far-reaching health benefits including fewer pregnancy-related complications, more women staying within their recommended range for weight-gain during their pregnancy, and other indicators. Patients also report increased satisfaction with their prenatal care as a result of the model.
In addition to the CenteringPregnancy program through the Swedish Covenant Hospital, the midwives will be starting a Centering program in partnership with Infant Welfare Society.
“We are excited about the social connections and support that expectant mothers will have through the new Centering group at Infant Welfare Society,” said Rosemary Baldwin, nurse midwife at Swedish Covenant Hospital.
To learn more about supporting women’s health at Swedish Covenant Hospital, contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-293-5121.