Group Prenatal Care Proves Beneficial for Mom and Baby

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

Sheena Webb, a member of Spectrum Health Centering Pregnancy smiling with other members
An innovative approach to prenatal care is empowering women and improving health outcomes for their babies. The CenteringPregnancy model groups women with similar due dates to receive prenatal care together. At Spectrum Health’s Butterworth campus, the program starts between 12-16 weeks of pregnancy and is led by a physician or certified nurse midwife. Women come together for 10 two-hour sessions, which include individual health assessments plus an intensive group educational component. Courtney Hilbert has been providing prenatal care for 11 years and said this is the best model she’s observed. She’s the certified nurse midwife working with CenteringPregnancy patients at Spectrum Health, the biggest delivering hospital in the state of Michigan. The program started with the aims of reducing preterm births and the cost of care, increasing breastfeeding rates, decreasing rates of sexually transmitted infections and helping women develop a reproductive life plan. Because the program addresses health inequalities through greater access to care, it was hoped that mothers and babies at greatest risk would be better served.
The CenteringPregnancy program allows women to go through the experience together and is leading to better outcomes for moms and babies. So far, it appears to be working. In addition to providing a built-in support group of women going through the ups and downs of pregnancy together, receiving prenatal care in this way has shown real results. Since the program started in Grand Rapids, 60 women have delivered with a pre-term birth rate of just three percent, a marked improvement over Kent County’s 11 percent average. According to, the CenteringPregnancy model:
  • Nearly eliminates racial disparities in pre-term birth.
  • Better prepares moms for labor, delivery and infant care.
  • Reduces after-hours physician calls and emergency room visits because women understand what is normal during pregnancy.
CenteringPregnancy sessions cover the basics of labor and delivery, breastfeeding and postpartum care, as well as how to recognize postpartum depression. They also address family planning, healthy relationships, and lifestyle topics such as diet, exercise, stress management and smoking cessation. Hilbert said the beauty of the program is in women going through the pregnancy experience together. Some are second-time moms, able to provide real-world advice. Women become confidants and cheer each other on if they’re struggling with smoking cessation during pregnancy or trying to walk away from domestic violence situations. “Our women are on Facebook with each other, they’re texting each other,” she said. “They’re really keeping in touch after the birth.” Labor and delivery nurses at the hospital have remarked to Hilbert that her CenteringPregnancy patients are better prepared. She attributes that to the amount of instruction time women receive in the group. Women might see their doctor a total of three hours with traditional prenatal care appointments, whereas the CenteringPregnancy model allows for 20 hours of face-to-face time. “You really do have that time to dig deep and ask questions,” Hilbert said. Spectrum Health is hosting Gala 2017 on Saturday, April 22, which will benefit the CenteringPregnancy program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a supporter of the event. Hilbert hopes the program will eventually be expanded to other Spectrum practices and regional hospitals. “I believe in it,” she said. “I see the magic that happens in it.” If you want to support the CenteringPregnancy program at Spectrum Health, you can make a financial donation or give baby blankets, diapers and clothes to the expectant moms enrolled. Find a program near you in Michigan here. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Photos courtesy of Spectrum Health
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