Feeling Centered

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Group prenatal appointments at Kaiser Permanente provide expectant families with both camaraderie and a holistic approach to prenatal care.

At Kaiser Permanente Northern California, providing leading prenatal care is a top priority — and more than 40,000 families are benefiting from this focused effort each year.

Developed in efforts to offer a more holistic approach to prenatal care and education outside of traditional hours, Kaiser Permanente introduced the CenteringPregnancy program to the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region in 2011. The Central Valley was the first to adopt the program, followed by Santa Clara in 2013. Now it’s in 14 other Kaiser Permanente Northern California medical centers … and growing. (CenteringPregnancy was not born at Kaiser Permanente and can be found in other health care settings.)

It works like this: About 8 to 10 couples, or a pregnant woman and support person, enroll in the 10-session program, including a postpartum visit, starting when the woman is between 8 – 9 weeks pregnant. The sessions begin when the woman is between 12 – 16 weeks and are facilitated by either a nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse midwife (CNM), or an ob-gyn. At the start of every 2-hour session, each woman has a private health assessment while others in the group socialize. The rest of the time is spent as a group, learning and sharing about various topics related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. There’s also a session after the babies are born where members can bring their babies and share birth stories.

Empowering Families

A couple receives prenatal care during a Centering session.

In multiple studies the Centering program demonstrates a 33 – 47% decreased risk of preterm birth, a flattening of health disparities between black and white women, better health care checkup attendance, greater readiness for birth and infant care, improved breastfeeding rates, and higher patient satisfaction scores.

“The goal for Centering is to not only offer a unique style of prenatal care in a group format for our members but to build a community that empowers families to be actively involved in their own care,” said Stacie Nevares, centering program coordinator at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center.

“Our aim is to equip families to make healthy choices throughout the pregnancy and beyond.”

Bonding In Utero and Out

Kaiser Permanente’s surveys of patients who participated in the program confirm a positive experience. For example, 87% of the Santa Clara patients, which numbered 1,000 during the past 4 years, rated the program as “very good” or “excellent.”

“I don’t have to find patients to participate. They are telling each other,” continued Nevares.

In addition to patients liking the program, there are numerous emotional benefits: CenteringPregnancy results in patients less nervous about labor and delivery, more involved partners, and health care providers who report enjoying the opportunity to get to know patients better.

Beth Soriano, a medical assistant at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, said that she loves working with the Centering group because she gets to watch Kaiser Permanente members develop strong friendships long after the group has ended.

“The Centering participants keep in great touch between sessions and after — sometimes speaking more than they do with their families,” added Nevares. “It’s a unique model that I’m glad Kaiser Permanente has adopted, and one I’m proud to help implement.”

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