A support group for expecting parents? Yes, it exists
Jamie Flick didn’t go looking for a CenteringPregnancy® program when she discovered she was going to have a baby. But today, she’s one of the group-care program’s biggest advocates.
“Every woman should know about this and have the opportunity to do it,” she says.
CenteringPregnancy is a national program developed to improve prenatal care and provide a support system for parents during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. MultiCare Family Medicine Center began offering the program four years ago.
With CenteringPregnancy, women with similar due dates share group visits with their physicians instead of going to individual appointments. Expecting fathers are welcome, too.
Each woman gets a private health assessment with their physician at each of the 10 scheduled prenatal visits. Then the entire group meets with a physician for an hour to go over education on everything from labor and delivery to anesthesia, lactation and diapering.
The class is designed not just for first-time parents, but experienced mothers and fathers, too. And after delivery, parents can move on to CenteringParenting classes for the child’s first two years.
Flick was hoping to find a female doctor to care for her during her pregnancy when she found MultiCare Family Medicine Center. They told her about the Centering prenatal group and she decided to give it a try.
“I thought, ‘‘Why not? What do I have to lose? I’ve never done this pregnancy thing before.’”
Besides the support system, Flick said she was thrilled with the amount of time she got to spend with the doctors, having questions answered. And the group setting turned out to be helpful.
“Other people asked questions that you didn’t think to ask and vice versa,” Flick says. “It’s a great opportunity to learn a whole lot.”
And because all of the physicians rotate through the group, women know that even if their primary doctor isn’t available when they go into labor, they will have had a chance to meet the doctor who does.
During the program, Flick said she bonded most with Camela Billick, MD, and chose her as her primary care physician for the pregnancy and beyond, as well as to care for her son, Jackson, once he was born.
When a health concern comes up for Jackson, who will turn 2 in August, Flick says she has such a good rapport with Dr. Billick she has no problem messaging the doctor for advice or to squeeze in an appointment if needed.
Dr. Billick says the physicians in the practice are as thrilled with the program as the patients are.
“It’s the most amount of time we get to spend with patients,” she says. “It’s awesome.”
Beyond the ability to educate and bond with patients, Dr. Billick says research shows that the program has better outcomes than traditional prenatal visits, with lower rates of preterm delivery, C-sections and better breastfeeding success rates.
It’s also fun, Dr. Billick says. With time for games and fun activities, the group visits give physicians time to really get to know the families they are treating, far more than they can in a traditional examination.
While MultiCare Family Medicine Center continues to offer traditional prenatal care, because of the benefits of CenteringPregnancy, “we encourage everyone to participate,” Dr. Billick says.
Beyond the medical and educational aspects, the participants often form strong bonds with each other. Flick says she continues to have regular playdates with her son and one of the other children from the group. In fact, despite the fact that Flick’s family lives in Gig Harbor and the other family lives in Bonney Lake, the kids will start preschool together next year.
“They’re going to come over from Bonney Lake because it’s only twice a week,” Flick says.
While Flick didn’t necessarily seek out the CenteringPregnancy program at MultiCare, she urges other moms and dads to do it.
“I got more support than I could have imagined,” she says. “Preparing to have a baby can be a bit scary, so learning all you can is absolutely invaluable.”
She also encourages expecting fathers to attend, because they learn just as much and have the opportunity to connect with other soon-to-be fathers.
“The group as a whole really makes you and your partner feel supported and educated,” she says.
MultiCare Family Medicine Center also offers CenteringParenting, family-centered care in a group setting for a child’s first two years.
About The Author
Cheryl Reid-Simons is a freelance writer and serial community volunteer. In her spare time, she drives a private activities shuttle for her twin sons, healthy graduates of the Tacoma General NICU and interim care nursery. More stories by this author