Empowered by education, support


Empowered by education, support

As a mother, you want to give your baby the very best start. But sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how. University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital is helping women have healthy pregnancies through the Centering Pregnancy Program. This unique program not only empowers women to take control of their health but also gives them the knowledge to help their child grow.

The Centering Pregnancy program, which is offered at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital and UH Ahuja Medical Center by the Division of Nurse-Midwifery, is an innovative prenatal program. This care model combines prenatal health assessment, education and psychosocial support all together in a group setting. Pregnant women whose babies are due around the same time are placed in groups of about 10 – 12 participants and begin these sessions between 16 – 20 weeks of pregnancy. Each woman is encouraged to bring one support person with her, whether it be the father, husband, significant other, or a friend or family member.

Better than routine prenatal care

“The program takes the place of regular office appointments,” explains Celina Cunanan, CNM, MSN, Division Director of Nurse Midwifery at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital and program leader. “We do everything we would normally do in an office visit, including ordering necessary tests, reviewing lab results and conducting belly checks. In addition, women are involved in self-care activities, such as checking their own weight and blood pressure, which really helps empower them to take control of their health during their pregnancy. Then we gather for a facilitated group discussion to give these women the opportunity to learn from each other about the incredible changes that are happening to them as they grow this new life.”

Group education and guidance

A new topic is introduced at each of the program’s 10 sessions, which help educate women on issues such as nutrition and healthy weight goals, relationship issues, what to expect during labor and birth, how to care for the baby afterward, postpartum depression and much more. They may also include activities such as prenatal exercise and healthy recipe exchanges.

“As health professionals, we are able to spend so much more time with our patients by working in a group setting. Each session is about two hours, allowing us more face-to-face contact with our patients to answer questions and provide more in-depth information than in a busy office setting,” says Cunanan. “In addition, by going through their pregnancies together, these women mentor each other and create a strong supportive network. Through this shared journey, it is really amazing to watch how these women from all different walks of life bond and support each other through this life-changing time in their lives.”

UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital began the program in 2010. Since then, it has positively impacted the lives of more than 800 expectant mothers and has shown better outcomes for both moms and babies than in traditional prenatal care, especially for those moms who are considered at-risk. The Centering Pregnancy Program has a preterm birth rate of 10 percent and low birth weight rate of 9 percent, both of which are better than state and national averages. It has also been shown to increase visit compliance, breastfeeding rates and patient satisfaction with their care while decreasing postpartum depression rates.

Program expansion

Due to the success of the group care model, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital recently began Sugar Mamas – a prenatal group specifically designed for the unique needs of high-risk pregnant women with diabetes. This includes those who had diabetes before pregnancy as well as those who developed it during pregnancy. This program is being offered by the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine under the direction of Stacey Ehrenberg, MD.

In 2012, the hospital also started Centering Parenting, in conjunction with the Department of Family Medicine. “The Centering Parenting Program naturally grew out of the pregnancy groups. These women spent much of their pregnancy together and wanted to see and support each other as new moms,” says Cunanan.

The Centering Parenting Program groups inner-city mothers and infants together for baby’s first 15 months of life. The program provides well-baby visits, including scheduled immunizations as well as postpartum care and birth control for new moms. More importantly, it also provides parenting skills to both moms and dads and gives them tools to help them succeed as parents.

“These programs empower women to take control of their health and pregnancy and give their baby the best start,” explains Cunanan. “They change lives.”

Division Director of Nurse Midwifery, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital
Clinical Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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