Albert Einstein Medical Center has launched a program designed to offer women prenatal care in a group setting.
With the support of a Pennsylvania Department of Health grant, Einstein has launched the Centering Pregnancy prenatal care program, which offers health care assessments, education and support.
During the program, from 8 to 12 women in each group participate in 10 sessions over a seven-month period at Enon Baptist Tabernacle Church, 2800 West Cheltenham Avenue. During the two-hour sessions, participants take their own blood pressure and check their weight. Participating women also receive one-on-one time with Colleen Lynch, the certified nurse-midwife who runs Einstein’s Centering program. Two cohorts of women are currently participating in Einstein’s program.
“The nice thing is they take some ownership of their healthcare. They keep track of their pregnancy progress. They see how resourceful they can be for other women. They are all going through the same thing at the same time,” says Lynch.
After undergoing their health assessments, participants sit in a circle during the interactive sessions — which cover issues such as birth control, nutrition, exercising, labor and delivery, relationship issues, post-partum issues and breastfeeding. One month after giving birth, the women can bring their babies in for a session to share experiences about adjusting to life as a parent.
Lynch says they are seeking to determine whether the program will help increase healthier birth outcomes and breastfeeding rates among women in Philadelphia.
A 2007 Yale University Study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that the Centering Pregnancy model can improve pregnancy outcomes. Preterm births and postpartum depression went down, while breastfeeding and patient satisfaction went up.
The program is open to women who have low risk pregnancies. Prior to starting the program at Einstein, women must undergo a medical evaluation to ensure that they are eligible to participate. For patients who may develop problems during their pregnancy, Einstein’s staff of obstetricians is available to provide expert care.
As a Centering Pregnancy participant, Crystal Clemente enjoys the camaraderie that comes from interacting with other women in a group setting. She formed new friendships while learning how other women are being impacted by their pregnancy.
“There are a lot of questions that you might be scared to ask or a lot of emotions that you might be having, that someone else is having,” says Clemente, 20, who is five months pregnant.
She’s also likes that women can bring their baby’s father, family member or friend to the sessions.
“Overall it’s a very good program. They are very organized. They just make sure that every couple in there is comfortable,” Clemente added.
The Centering Pregnancy model was founded in 1993 by Sharon Rising, CEO of the Centering Healthcare Institute when she was a nurse-midwife in Connecticut. After more than 20 years as a nurse-midwife, Rising recognized that meeting in groups could positively impact prenatal care.
“It seemed to me that a much better way to do care would be to do it in a group where women could talk with each other and help to solve each other’s problems,” says Rising.
“The prenatal period is a time for a woman to grow herself as a mother, and it’s a time to really focus on some of the really broad things in your life and to figure out how you are going to manage with a baby and really understand what’s happening to your body. The really important thing I think for women in prenatal care is for women to have a chance to really talk about the things that are happening in their lives,” says Rising.
Einstein is one of approximately 300 sites across the nation offering the Centering Pregnancy model of care.
According to Dolores Smith of the Pennsylvania March of Dimes, the organization has been funding training of the Centering Pregnancy model for obstetrical providers in the Philadelphia region since 2004. The March of Dimes has facilitated training for 11 medical sites across Pennsylvania including Einstein, Drexel University’s 11th Street Health Center, Greater Philadelphia Health Action and Montgomery Hospital in Norristown.