Centering Group 48 meeting on a Virtual format on April 28th, 2020.
Centering Group 48 meeting on a Virtual format on April 28th, 2020. Photo Credit: Helen Schachinger

by Shannon Keller, CNM

As my excitement to meet new families and see their friendships begin with the start of a new CenteringPregnancy® group rose, a new threat to this connection— COVID-19—hit the world.  At UNC, we did not cancel our centering groups. Instead we transitioned to  a virtual social group for women and their support person during their pregnancies. Traditionally, CenteringPregnancy® provides prenatal care in a group, allowing for social interaction and care delivery at the same time. In our new model, patients continued to see the midwives for their prenatal care and then also attended the virtual WebEx session with the groups as they were able. The virtual groups were facilitated by a midwife and nurse.

I, as a CenteringPregnancy® Midwife, was unsure how this would go and how much teaching and education I could facilitate virtually, but I was blown away by the participants’ eagerness and willingness to engage, learn, and be WITH one another.  We say as Midwives, we are WITH women… and now these women were WITH each other at one of the most monumental and vulnerable times in their lives.

We had a total of 6 Virtual CenteringPregnancy® sessions, and I was able to see some of the patients in person for their routine prenatal visits separately.  It was not until I was at the hospital and attending the birth of one of my group members, that I realized other group members were in the hospital as well.  With their consent, we were able to coordinate the meeting of three families in person on the postpartum floor!

For the first time, they met face-to-face, well, mask-to-mask, and were able to congratulate and form deeper bonds with each other. We snapped a photo of them and their new precious babies (masked and distanced for safety, of course!). This photo for me is proof that women and families are adaptable and we as humans, still crave connection and understanding.  Even while these women were distanced from much of society being pregnant and vulnerable to infections like Covid-19, they were able to find support through CenteringPregnancy® and hopefully motherhood as well.

3 out of 11 patients in Centering Group 48 meet in person for the first time on UNC Postpartum Unit in Women’s Hospital on 8/28/20 from left to right: Daniel Connor & Bonnie Locklear, Brooke Csuka and Daniella & Aaron Greenhood
3 out of 11 patients in Centering Group 48 meet in person for the first time on UNC Postpartum Unit in Women’s Hospital on 8/28/20 from left to right: Daniel Connor and Bonnie Locklear; Brooke Csuka; and Daniella and Aaron Greenhood. Photo credit: Meg Berreth

CenteringPregnancy® at UNC was launched in 2015 and we are currently enrolling for our January, February and March Due dates.  We have delivered nearly 500 Centering babies and have superb outcomes with regards to increased patient satisfaction, breastfeeding initiation rates, and low preterm birth rates.  We have been able to adapt to a move to a new building, planning CenteringPregnancy® at another location, and now we can say that we have continued to pursue CenteringPregnancy® and the amazing connections through even a worldwide Pandemic.  Just as I tell women that they are strong and ‘women have been giving birth un-medicated for years, (and so can you!) we can say, “CenteringPregnancy® is an excellent form of prenatal care that not even a Pandemic can disrupt!”

With all the unknowns of Covid, one thing is for sure: We, at UNC, continued Centering, continued giving excellent care to mother and babies and we promoted true genuine connection between our patients using a virtual CenteringPregnancy® platform. Thanks to all the hard work of our CenteringPregnancy® Director, Meg Berreth, CNM and the CenteringPregnancy® Coordinator, Helen Schachinger, RN for their continued effort in making this program a success at UNC!

UNC Midwifery Division email: unc_midwives@unc.edu

UNC CenteringPregnancy® Midwifery Division: https://www.med.unc.edu/obgyn/midwifery/centeringpregnancy-r-at-unc/

About Shannon Keller, CNM, MSN: https://www.med.unc.edu/obgyn/directory/shannon-keller-cnm-msn/