Pregnancy made easier with education, peer counseling to Midlands moms

jholleman@thestate.comApril 16, 2014 

— As each of the late arrivals walked into the room, they were greeted with a round of “Heys” and “How are yous.” Then all eyes went down to the babies in their carry seats, because this reunion of new moms was really about their healthy babies.

The moms met at University Specialty Clinics in the Palmetto Health complex for months as part of the new CenteringPregnancy program, designed to help them have a less stressful pregnancy and healthier babies. Based on the tired-mom smiles and sweet squeals from the babies on Wednesday, the program worked.

“We were very prepared and educated,” said Hayden Wilson, holding her daughter Ellis in her arms. “We learned what could happen and what we could expect, and what we could expect if that didn’t happen.”

This reunion on Wednesday offered the first postpartum setting for the women to get together, share their experiences and meet each other’s babies. Their Ob-Gyn, Dr. Kerry Sims, was there if they had specific medical questions.

But they spent as much time simply sharing the joy of those first few weeks of parenthood. The warm feeling of a child sleeping in your arms. The milestones passing so fast. The way your life turns upside down.

“I can’t be anywhere on time anymore,” said Laura Self, one of the moms.

Wilson nodded. “I started getting ready for this (2 p.m. appointment) at 10 o’clock,” she said.

The CenteringPregnancy program provides educational materials and tips during 10 prenatal sessions to encourage women to take better care of themselves and their babies. The entire group – 8 to 12 appears to be the right size – gather in a circle and talk during the sessions. One at a time, the moms would peel off to talk with their Ob-Gyn at a special examination table on the side of the room.

The group sessions, which last about two hours, create an all-in-this-together attitude to pregnancy and birth. University Specialty Clinics bought a colorful throw rug and homey lamps to give the classroom a less institutional feel. The setup is so laid back that the moms would take their own vital stats – weight, temperature, pulse.

As first-time moms, they mostly picked up tips.

“Somebody would mention something that happened to them, and you’d say, ‘OK. That’s normal,’” said Self, holding son Bascom, “because there’s a lot that happens.”

The program’s aim is all about having healthier babies.

“We have seen a significant reduction – up to 47 percent – in the number of preterm births prior to 37 weeks as a result of this program in our practice,” said Dr. Amy Picklesimer, clinical lead for the program at Greenville Health System. “CenteringPregnancy has helped us take better care of women, deliver healthier babies and save an estimated $2.75 million in health care costs since our program began in 2008.”

The program is for low-risk pregnancies, not those that doctors suspect might have complications. University Specialty Clinics recruited the early classes, but as word gets out, more new moms have asked to be in the upcoming classes. They are grouped by due date.

About the program

Greenville Health Systems was out front in this effort, launching a CenteringPregnancy program nearly six years ago at the Ob-Gyn Center in Greenville.

New programs were launched last year at AnMed Health Family Medicine in Anderson; Carolina Ob-Gyn in Georgetown and Murrells Inlet; Sumter Ob-Gyn in Sumter; University Specialty Clinics in Columbia and MUSC Women’s Care in Charleston. The programs are funded in part by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the March of Dimes as part of the broader S.C. Birth Outcomes Initiative.

Two new practices – Montgomery Center for Family Medicine in Greenwood and Carolina Women’s Center in Clinton – have joined the CenteringPregnancy effort this year.

 

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