Group prenatal care arrives in southeast Iowa

There’s a new way to have a baby at Great River Health System. We haven’t changed the biological process, but women have a choice of paths for traveling the 40-week journey to motherhood.

CenteringPregnancy is a group prenatal care program that brings together eight to 12 women who are due around the same time (and their partners). The two-hour meetings follow the prenatal checkup schedule, and women have individual private time at each session for belly checks and questions with one of the program’s two facilitators.

Each meeting begins with women weighing themselves, checking their blood pressure and recording the results.

“Today, people want to be part of their health care and know all the details,” said Dawn Rohrer, nurse midwife, Great River Women’s Health. She and nurse practitioner Laura Martin facilitate the classes.

CenteringPregnancy is a program of the Centering Healthcare Institute. It based on the proven principle that when people are actively engaged and involved in a discussion with their peers, they will have greater understanding and self-confidence, and be more likely to change behaviors.

“It puts education in the hands of patients,” Rohrer said. “The institute provides ideas for topics based on trimesters of pregnancy, but information at each meeting depends on individual and class needs. This encourages others to speak up. It’s the facilitators’ job to keep the conversation going and ensure our patients receive accurate information.”

Studies show group prenatal care leads to better birth outcomes. Women who participate in CenteringPregnancy are better-prepared for labor, delivery and caring for their infants. They are more likely to breastfeed and attend prenatal care appointments, and they are less likely to have gestational diabetes, preterm births and postpartum depression.

“Centering Pregnancy provides education that’s not always addressed in 10-minute prenatal appointments,” said Desiree Martin, director, Women and Family Services. “It’s patient-centered and patient-driven. Topics extend beyond pregnancy and childbirth, such as choosing birth control after pregnancy.”

In Rohrer’s 11 years as a labor and delivery nurse in Great River Women and Family Center, she helped mothers in labor who received little prenatal education.

“They were scared and intimidated,” she said. “Without information, it’s difficult to make decisions, such as having an epidural or choosing feeding options for their babies.”

CenteringPregnancy is not a replacement for Great River Health System’ prenatal education classes:

  • Big Brother, Big Sister
  • Childbirth Prep
  • Noncertified CPR for Infants and children
  • Prenatal Breastfeeding

“These programs work together to provide comprehensive education,” Rohrer said. “It’s for people who desire to have a complete package.”