I recently saw the movie, 40 Weeks, a documentary about the individual journeys of a group of diverse pregnant women. The women share their stories in words and film from their personal video cameras, creating what the filmmakers refer to as a “virtual tribe” of support. The stories are funny, poignant, and intimate in a very natural way. These are genuine women with complex lives. There is no glossing over the realities of pregnancy and no airbrushing of stretch marks. The honesty of the participants was refreshing. After just a couple of minutes the movie had my attention and, as the film rolled on, I found myself caring more and more about each and every one of the expecting moms.
If a film about a group of pregnant women can succeed in creating a sense of community for expecting moms, imagine what a face-to-face group can do. The need for peer support is one reason why women seek out CenteringPregnancy®, a form of group prenatal care. In a Centering group, 8 – 12 women, all within a limited due date range, attend 10 prenatal sessions together for assessment, care, education, and interaction. Each session lasts 90 – 120 minutes, allowing ample time for bonding and learning between participants.
Centering groups have two facilitators, one of whom is the midwife that will assess the mother’s health and the baby’s heartbeat and growth. Participants are encouraged to partake in their own care after being taught the proper techniques to check their blood pressure, weight and urine dip. After the women have completed their individual check-ups, they gather together in a group for learning and sharing. With each session, the group becomes more and more cohesive, with input from the co-facilitators to elicit comments, answer questions, or introduce an interactive exercise.
Advocates for Centering groups feel this type of care should be an option for all women in addition to the choice of standard, traditional, one-on-one prenatal appointments. Joanna Weiss asks the question, in her Boston Globe op-ed, Could Group Care be the New Model for Pregnancy?. Only time will tell, but one thing is clear: Centering groups can positively influence the lives of expecting women. Studies have shown that Centering participants experience lower preterm birth rates, deliver babies with higher birth weights, and demonstrate higher breastfeeding initiation rates when compared to non-participants.
In this day and age, extended families rarely live under the same roof. In the past, an expecting woman or new mom may have lived with or near her mother, aunt, or grandmother, receiving support and being cared for by others on a daily basis. Today, many women need to seek out their own community. Centering groups are here to help.
Centering groups are available at South Shore Medical Center and Crown ObGyn. For more information regarding Centering at SSMC call 781-682-8000 and ask for the ob-gyn receptionist. To learn about Centering at Crown, call 617-479-6636.