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CenteringPregnancy is a new type of prenatal care that's springing up across the United States. Rather than seeing an OB solo for 10 minutes once a month, you attend prenatal visits with your doctor or nurse-midwife, plus eight to 10 other women who are in the same stage of pregnancy, chatting and comparing notes.
"Pregnant women have very similar questions and need similar information," says Sharon Rising, founder of the Centering Healthcare Institute. "Working together to solve problems is better than having a health care provider telling you what to try."
Most sessions last two hours and start with visits to different stations in a large room, where women take their own blood pressure, weigh themselves, listen to their baby's heartbeat and fill in their own charts. Each woman gets a few minutes alone with the doctor or midwife to get a belly measurement and discuss and personal issues. Pelvic exams, when necessary, are also conducted in private.
Next, the women (and, often, their partners) circle up with the care provider and chat. Topics covered include prenatal nutrition, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and other basics, but the group determines where the conversation goes. "It's a great opportunity to learn from others and get support," says Peter Bernstein, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.
Research shows that the approach can reduce preterm births, increase breastfeeding rates and create positive changes in diet, exercise and other behaviors. Women, though, say they love the bonding experience so much that many groups continue to get together regularly after the babies are born.
For a list of the more than 300 centers, go to Centering Healthcare's pregnancy page for additional information.