Rising began a group program at a Connecticut clinic in 1993. Since then she's formed the Centering Pregnancy and Parenting Association, a non-profit organization that trains other healthcare providers in using the group model to benefit their own patients. Today 200 sites nationwide offer centering care.
Rising surmises that if women feel like they are in control of their pregnancies and have support from other women and their healthcare providers, they not only reap psychological benefits, but real health benefits, too.
How Centering Works
Dr. Levin, along with his co-director Dr. Wendy Barr, MD, is piloting a centering program at the Phillips Family Practice in lower Manhattan. To start, the program staff approached patients who met specific criteria and asked if they wanted to join the group. First, explains Dr. Levin, the women needed to be at a certain point in their pregnancies. The group began when the women were 18 to 20 weeks into their pregnancies, far enough along that miscarriage was less likely. Next, the women had to have low-risk pregnancies. (Women with high-risk pregnancies are most often seen at a practice that specializes in this kind of care.) Finally, the women had to speak English. All of the women Drs. Levin and Barr contacted decided to take part in the group.
Dr. Levin's group is comprised of six women, and some centering groups go up to as many as 10. The group meets for two hours at each session. All sessions are held in the evening to accommodate everyone's schedule. When the women arrive, the first hour is devoted to individual assessments. The physician meets with each woman—privately—in one corner of a conference room. The other women get their charts and do self evaluations, including checking their weight, measuring fundal height (to check the baby's growth), even doing their own urine tests as a nurse or other medical assistant looks on and offers help when needed.