New prenatal care approach offers the benefit of shared experience among women

A month before her baby was due, Mirian Zempualteca decided to start maternity leave early. Her belly was getting in the way of her job at a Brooklyn department store.

"When I was told that I was pregnant, I was shocked," she said. She and her fiancé planned to marry next year and were caught by surprise. "I was nervous and worried. We had not expected to start a family so soon and did not know what to do."

A social worker suggested she take part in a new program offered by the Sunset Park Family Health Center at NYU Langone called CenteringPregnancy, a group prenatal care approach that offers the benefit of shared experience among women having their first baby and practiced mothers. She liked the idea of being with a group of women in the same stage of pregnancy and delivering around the same time.

Centering is an evidence-based program that has been shown to lower the rate of preterm birth and lessen the incidence of low birth weight. It also reduces stress, increases breastfeeding, and encourages networking among participants."

George O. Aglialoro, DO, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone

Kassandra Escamilla had delivered three babies previously. "Each one went smoothly. But with this pregnancy I've had nausea, headaches, and dizzy spells," she said. "I enjoy our group meetings because I am able to share my experiences with others and I have even learned new things about timing of contractions, when it's time to go to the hospital, and what to look out for if my water breaks."

Groups of about a dozen expectant mothers meet in the Centering Room, a beautifully furnished private area. The women meet during the day or evening for up to two hours once a month initially and more frequently as their pregnancies progress.

The women gather in a circle, enjoy healthy snacks and beverages as a certified nurse-midwife, working under the supervision of an obstetrician, facilitates. Each person in the group receives a notebook that serves as a medical diary of their pregnancy. Before every session, they check and record their weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and belly size, and have private time with the nurse-midwife.

"Delivering babies is an amazing experience for parents and those of us who help usher them into the world," said Christine Jean-Louis, a certified nurse-midwife. "Centering helps build a sense of community between patients and care providers."

Meetings are fun and informative, and a good time to ask questions to clarify any myths or facts about pregnancy. Invited experts talk about nutrition, stress management, exercise, breastfeeding, baby care topics and family planning. In preparation for baby's arrival, participants also go on a virtual tour of the labor and delivery rooms, the nursery, and other services at the nearby NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn.

"Centering helps participants feel more involved, confident, and empowered," said Aisha Walker, director of women's health services at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. "Group interaction allows for bonding and sharing experiences, and offers opportunity for friendship and a support system that can continue after their babies are born."

An additional benefit to participating in CenteringPregnancy is having free access to classes for new and expecting parents offered by NYU Langone's Center for Perinatal Education and Lactation.

Developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute, CenteringPregnancy is offered in nearly 600 healthcare practices serving 70,000 families nationwide.

The Family Health Centers at NYU Langone is one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the nation. It is a network of eight community-based primary and specialty care sites, more than 40 school-based health and dental clinics, and a wide array of social support services for adults and children. For more information visit https://nyulangone.org/locations/family-health-centers-at-nyu-langone.

To learn more about CenteringPregnancy and to make an appointment at the Sunset Park Family Health Center at NYU Langone, contact the program coordinator by email at [email protected], or call 718-630-8001.

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