Ever wanted to go to your prenatal exam with a friend? Maybe you've had questions for your healthcare provider but couldn't remember them once you got to the office? Stared at the clock in the waiting room before, wondering if your exam is going to be 15 minutes late—or an hour? If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you might be interested in centering—a prenatal care approach that's slowly gaining popularity among nurse midwives and family practitioners across the country.
Centering is a dramatic shift in the way prenatal care is given. Women attend prenatal care sessions with other women who are at the same stage in their pregnancies. The healthcare provider meets with each woman individually after, during, or before the group session begins. During the group session, women discuss their questions, drawing support from one another, and the healthcare provider facilitates the discussion but more often listens to the group's concerns.
"[Centering] is the most empowering thing for women I've witnessed as a physician," says Dr. Marc Levin, a New York City-based family physician at the Phillips Family Practice who also teaches at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Institute for Urban Family Health at Beth Israel Hospital. "It's amazing to see six or eight women who've never met come together at group and immediately bond with each other right off the bat."
History of Centering
The idea behind centering began when Sharon Schindler Rising, a certified nurse midwife (CNM) and a former faculty member of the Yale University School of Nursing, wanted to offer pregnant women more complete care. Like many healthcare providers, Rising felt that the brief office visits with her patients often left both her and the patients frustrated. Beyond medical questions, her patients wanted to talk about their emotions and feelings about being pregnant. Rising theorized that women would thrive in a group setting for their prenatal care. While the idea of receiving treatment in a group is not new, applying it to pregnancy was.