LIFE Children CENTERING PREGNANCY – A Better Way To Get Prenatal Care

By Jennie Marie Naffie

Not so very long ago, women hid their pregnancies. Maternity clothes were loose — an attempt to hide the bulge that meant, God forbid, you had sex. I remember my Italian grandfather slapping my face, when at the age of five, I excitedly told him “Mama’s going to have a baby.” Not knowing how babies were made and not understanding the culture of the time, I was confused by his reaction. Lots of discussion in Italian and broken English with my dad and Uncle Corato softened my grandpa a little.

If you were unmarried and pregnant, you might as well have placed a scarlet letter on your chest and declared yourself a sinner. Girls were “sent away” to homes for the unwed mother, institutions that were only a step up from a prison. Worse, some died because of botched abortions.

Whether married or not, women seldom shared their fears and feelings about their changing bodies and learned little about what to expect during the pregnancy and after.

(Please note: the person with the sperm was rarely held with any responsibility.)

Today, it’s okay for women to flaunt their baby bump and much more research and education has resulted in a more informed and healthy mother.

Hackley Community Care is the first in our reading area to offer Centering Pregnancy at their health center. Centering Pregnancy is a model of care developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute that integrates three components of prenatal care within a group setting: health assessment, education and support.

The model brings together women who are in the same trimester of their pregnancy in a group setting where they will learn care skills for themselves and their infants during their pregnancy, their births and the postpartum period. All Centering Pregnancy groups are facilitated by an OB provider. The group consists of 8-12 pregnant women expected to deliver around the same time who now have the opportunity to develop a support network with other group members.

Dr. Danielle Koestner and four certified midwives head up the team. Elizabeth Rykse, a certified nurse midwife in the program says it is “empowering women to take control of their body and their birth.”

Centering is unique in that the expectant mother receives her assessments through self-care activities within the group with other moms. The group also has the opportunity to discuss and problem-solve topics and concerns related to their pregnancy, nutrition and the opportunity to motivate and empower each other. This creates a safe, trusting environment that establishes sustained relationships and support. Centering Pregnancy sessions are ten weeks in duration and each session lasts about two hours. Expectant mothers can also bring their support person if they like. After delivery, new mothers also receive postpartum care counseling and breastfeeding support if they choose to do so.

“Implementing the Centering Pregnancy model allows Hackley Community Care to impact the health status of pregnant women by providing learning skills to ensure the expectant mom has a healthy baby,” Dr.Koestner said. When expectant moms have healthy babies, this also improves the county overall health status of low birth rate babies and increases breastfeeding rates.

“We are so proud to initiate the Centering Program—it’s just an amazing way to help mothers learn valuable information in a comfortable setting. We already have mothers who, not only continue to support each other, but have become friends along the way,” Elizabeth Rykse said.

Centering is an evidence-based innovation that has been nationally recognized by leading healthcare experts because of the improved outcomes for important maternal child health factors including preterm birth rates, low birth rate weight rates, breastfeeding rates and immunization rates.

Centering Pregnancy includes

• Regular checkups
• Learning how to care for yourself during pregnancy
• 10 sessions throughout your pregnancy with the same OB provider
• Socializing with other pregnant women due around the same time
• Discussion of topics about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting that are important to you
• Nutritious snacks and beverages
• The opportunity to make friends and get support from other women that can last a lifetime

If you are an expectant mother and interested in participating in Centering Pregnancy, please call 231-737-1335 x6655 to register or obtain more information. You can also check or go to

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