UNC Midwives offers new CenteringPregnancy™ group

The upcoming January group is open to women who are due in June 2016 and beyond.

For the second time, UNC Midwives at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology will be offering CenteringPregnancy™ as a model of prenatal care. The next group – for women who expect to deliver around June 2016 – will begin in January 2016.

CenteringPregnancy™ is an innovative model of care delivery that replaces individual prenatal appointments with group meetings. The model brings together women at similar stages in their pregnancies and incorporates three major components – assessment, education and support – so that they might benefit from one another's experiences. Research has shown that the model improves health outcomes, reduces the likelihood of preterm birth and increases patient satisfaction.

Each monthly session is two hours long, held in a large, comfortable setting with eight-to-12 women where patients can meet not only with the providers and receive routine obstetrical care, but also engage other pregnant women and their partners on the topics relevant to this particular time in their lives.

UNC Midwife Meg Berreth held UNC's first CenteringPregnancy™ group last year and found it to be a method of delivering care that not only benefited patients, but also providers. While the patients had the opportunity to ask more involved questions as part of an ongoing, collaborative discussion, the midwives had the opportunity to get to know patients in a new way by spending more time with them.

"We normalize pregnancy when we begin to talk about it and make connections with one another over our experiences," said Berreth.

Brieanne Lyda-McDonald learned about the CenteringPregnancy™ when Berreth mentioned it to her at an appointment early in her pregnancy. As a second-time mom, Lyda-McDonald found she was able to get fresh perspectives from the variety of women in the group and enjoyed the chance to engage other women about symptoms, learning what worked and what didn't work for different women.

"I felt like the information I was getting was much more in-depth this time because there was this group I could share it with. I value direct opinions and advice from real women over weekly emails about pregnancy or FAQs I could read in my own time," she said. "I also felt good that I could add something of my own, having given birth before, and being able to share that was also very valuable to me."

At each meeting, the patients measure their own weight and blood pressure – after initial guidance from a nurse – and a midwife listens to the baby's heartbeat and answers any questions or concerns the patient wants to privately discuss.

After that, the group addresses a topic together where the women can share their ideas with one another in an open and flexible environment. Discussions touch topics such as labor, nutrition, newborn care, mental health, infant safety, breastfeeding, birth plans and more. Partners, spouses and birth support persons are also invited and allowed to attend the group.

"The experience added an extra level of enjoyment to this pregnancy," said Lyda-McDonald. "I felt very comfortable with delivery because I'd spent extra time with the midwives getting to know them in longer appointments. And, once the baby was born, I missed getting to see them all and the other women I'd connected with during the experience."

The group held a reunion so the women could catch up after the babies were born and begin connecting over the next stage of their lives – parenthood.

Berreth said UNC Midwives hoped to begin offering CenteringPregnancy™ at more intervals throughout the year. The new group will meet at the Medical Office Building at the UNC Hillsborough Campus. To sign up for January's group, call UNC Midwives at 919-843-2490.

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