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Wednesday, March 2, 2022 - New CenteringPregnancy program improves health of moms, babies

Roper St. Francis Healthcare is launching a new prenatal care initiative to improve the health of pregnant moms and babies.

The foundation of this effort, CenteringPregnancy, is gathering a small group of expectant mothers with OB/GYN practitioners who engage in their care and patients learn from one another. The mothers will have 10 prenatal gatherings lasting between 1 1/2 to 2 hours, giving women more time with their physicians. By providing access to innovative, patient-centered care, OB/GYN practitioners can help reduce infant and maternal morbidity and mortality rates and improve long-term health outcomes for mother and baby. Preventing preterm and low birth weight deliveries lowers the risks for life-threatening health problems and developmental delays.

“We’re trying different tactics to improve education and make it easier for patients to get what they need,” said Dr. Eleanor Oakman, director of women’s services for Roper St. Francis Physician Partners, who helped launch the initiative. “This is about making things as accessible as possible. Our moms can see that everyone is going through the same thing, and this normalizes what happens in pregnancy.”

Centering aims to decrease disparities in birthing outcomes in high-risk groups of patients and increase rates of breastfeeding and the wellbeing of moms, and it’s been proven successful with 20 years of research. Mothers engage in their care by taking their own weight and blood pressure and recording their own health data, and they also have private time with their physician for a belly check.

In 2021, Dr. Oakman, partnered with nursing leader Laura MacMillan, director of women’s services, to initiate CenteringPregnancy at RSFH with support from a $69,100 grant funded by the Mission Outreach Program at Bon Secours Mercy Foundation. Now the Centering team is busy recruiting the first group session to start March 23. A group of eight to 12 patients will begin in-person meetings in new pristine spaces dedicated to the Centering program at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital and Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital.

“I think as a provider were all excited to have more time with our patients,” Oakman said.

The sessions begin around 16-20 weeks of pregnancy. At first, moms come in once a month. When they reach the third trimester, they come in once every two weeks until 36 weeks. They go back to individual care for the last four weeks of pregnancy.

Guest speakers will address moms during the sessions on topics such as labor, epidurals, breast feeding, post-partum depression and caring for the baby. Some sessions will be delivered in Spanish.

Centering groups include women of different ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds, but those demographic differences diminish in importance as they share the common experience of pregnancy, birth, and family care.

“Moms are learning from one another and we’re facilitating that learning,” Oakman said. “The moms who wouldn’t normally ask an important question will get their answer. We’re empowering them to think about these things before they get to delivery.”

































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