For new mothers especially, pregnancy can be an intimidating journey. Support from friends, family, and healthcare professionals can relieve a lot of the nerves, but sometimes talking to someone going through the exact same experience enriches that support. NorthShore Health Centers now hosts Centering Pregnancy programs to help patients gain knowledge and confidence as they approach labor.
Following the Centering Healthcare Institute’s guideline, NorthShore Health Centers’ OB and prenatal care nurses lead expecting mothers in group sessions.
“It’s essentially group prenatal care,” said Megan Walker, WHNP-BC for NorthShore Health Centers.
Walker explained that while Centering Pregnancy visits replace the patients’ traditional visits, the added support the women gather from one another greatly improves their experience.
“For instance, the group that’s coming in today, they’re really close,” Walker said. “They chat, they’re Facebook friends, they’ve gotten to know each other.”
Sara Rhoades, RN-IBCLC and Prenatal Care Nurse Manager for NorthShore Health Centers, agreed.
“They invite each other to their baby showers,” Rhoades said. “This group was like our pilot group.”
“They were our guinea pigs,” Walker laughed.
Before the meetings start, the patients still receive one-on-one sessions for their individual care; a privacy door allows for their personal check-ups.
NorthShore Health Centers’ Centering Pregnancy groups have been meeting for about five months, and each group centers on a different stage of pregnancy. The women in the group meeting on May 23 were entering their third trimester.
“After their one-on-ones with me, we come together and talk about where they are in their pregnancies,” Walker said. “Today, we’re talking about labor and pain management during labor.”
Before diving into labor talk, Walker and Rhoades had everyone discuss the meaning behind their names and behind their new babies’ potential names. Refreshments were served, and the mood was definitely made light by the laughter over embarrassing nicknames.
Walker and Rhoades then led the group in an exercise designed to demonstrate different pain management strategies. Everyone (including one patients’ dutiful partner, who remained a good sport despite his male status) squeezed ice cubes in their hands, first with ceaseless determination, and then again with paced rhythm and calming breaths.
By the time they delved into more specifics on labor, the group seemed more relaxed and willing to ask questions, even in moments of trepidation.
Leiazia Irving, a first-time mom due in August, said that she’s both nervous and excited for her delivery.
“I enjoy this group a lot,” Irving said. “I look forward to coming. Coming to this group makes you realize you’re not going through this alone, and it makes it easier.”
The idea that support drawn from shared experience leads to an easier and safer birth rings true at NorthShore Health Centers.