Emily Bearse discusses what centering pregnancy is and how it can be helpful for new or experienced parents.

Emily Bearse, CNM

Emily Bearse

Emily Bearse, Certified Nurse Midwife, is the Group Prenatal Care (Centering) Director at for the OBGYN Department at Boston Medical Center and is an Instructor for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine. She earned her Master’s of Science degree in Nursing specializing in Nurse-Midwifery from Emory University and a Master’s of Public Health degree with a concentration in International Health from Boston University.

Learn more about Emily Bearse, CNM

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Melanie Cole (Host): BMC is proud to offer Centering Pregnancy. It’s a model of group prenatal care and we’re going to learn about it today. My guest is Emily Bearse. She’s a certified nurse midwife a the Centering Director for the OB/GYN Department at Boston Medical Center. Emily what is Centering Pregnancy, what does that even mean?

Emily Bearse (Guest): Sure, so first off thanks so much for having me. This is great. So Centering Pregnancy is an evidence based metal of prenatal care and it brings together 8-12 women or so who are all due around the same time and it brings them together for their prenatal visits. Each group meets about 10-12 times over the course of their pregnancy and then again in the postpartum period. So they have a postpartum visit that we kind of make into a postpartum party and so each group serves as the women’s prenatal visit. So during each visit she’ll have a one on one time with her provider and she can hear her baby’s heartbeat, ask any private question, and then the rest of the time is really spent together as a group and then the group will discuss and learn about important topics related to pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

Host: How cool is that? So how was this model developed? What’s the main goal of it? I love that everybody’s kind of going through it at the same time.

Emily: Yeah so it was actually developed by a midwife as well. So it was developed by a nurse midwife named Sharon Rising in the 1990s and she saw what you just said, that all these women are going through pregnancy and have a lot of shared experiences and feelings and she saw some of that potential and also wanted to just create an improved model of prenatal care. She saw that women, and her patients desired more prenatal education and she also saw the power of groups and the benefits I think come with greater patient participation in their care, with improved – or increase social connectiveness that you get in a group and how that can really have a positive impact on patients, and how providers enjoy working with groups as well. So she did some experimenting early on with group care and found that both women and providers had a really high satisfaction level with this model and that they have improved outcomes for moms and their babies, and so those are the goals basically. It’s to improve the experience in prenatal care for patients and also improve birth outcomes for mom and baby.

Host: Well tell us a little bit about that. What have you seen from this type of a program as far as birth outcomes and support, and even things like women who are scared or who are subject to postpartum depression, or any of these kinds of things that come up when a women feels like she’s going through this all alone.

Emily: Sure, I think that’s a great question. So in the research and studies that have been done, we’ve seen very positive outcomes. So women who have participated in Centering Pregnancy or group prenatal care often report feeling more prepared for labor and birth. They have really high rates of satisfaction for their prenatal care. It’s also been shown that women who participating in Centering or group prenatal care may be at lower risk for preterm birth and low birth weight, and this finding has been particularly strong in certain populations. Women who participate in group care tend to have fewer emergency room visits during their pregnancy and less hospitalization for them and their baby. So those findings and their research are certainly very positive. I would also say from my own experience in co-facilitating Centering groups here at BMC, you see women who maybe start and are kind of shy and a little tentative about the group model, and then over the course of their pregnancy they get to know the other women in their group and by the end are really sharing experiences, becoming friends with the other women, and sometimes really being very vulnerable and sharing parts of their life that they may not have thought that they’d share and getting support from one another more so even sometimes than from the provider, and so you have experienced moms sharing with first time moms saying been there, I hear you. So I think in the end, women end up feeling really positive about their experience and appreciate not only the education and information that they learned but the relationships and the community that they build within the group.

Host: What a great program and for women that are pregnant, it’s so nice to have that extra bit of support. So how do new moms find out about it and is there a charge for it?

Emily: So at BMC we typically introduce Centering as an option for women at their first prenatal visit. So at their first prenatal visit we’ll learn about them, get the health history, and then talk to them about the options for prenatal care and the majority of women quality for Centering Pregnancy unless they have a particularly high risk pregnancy and then we may need to have another conversation about what works best for them, and so after that first appointment they can enroll in Centering Pregnancy and the rest of their prenatal appointments will be in the group setting and there’s no additional charge for Centering. It’s just one great way to do routine prenatal care and it serves as the patient’s prenatal visit so there’s no difference in that sense in terms of charges for patients.

Host: That’s great information. Does it continue after the baby’s born, as we said because of healthier outcomes and that comradery, what happens once baby’s born?

Emily: Yeah so there’s been – they’ve found because of these great outcomes, it started as Centering Pregnancy and then the Centering Healthcare Institute which creating the curriculum and the model also developed a Centering Parenting program for all those reasons that you just said, the social connectiveness, the shared experiences. We don’t currently have a Centering Parenting program in the OB/GYN clinic but there is Centering Parenting in the teen and tot program at BMC and hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to offer more of in the future.

Host: So wrap it up for us, what would you like women and their partners to know about Centering Pregnancy through Boston Medical Center and how it can really help with healthier pregnancy and breast feeding rates, and lower costs and just a general overall well being for mom and baby?

Emily: So I think a lot of people don’t know about Centering Pregnancy and when they hear the word group, some people think I’m shy or I really want individual one on one, it just seems different, but I think in this case different is really good, and a lot of women and their partners, and their support people in their lives who go through the program I think initially they feel shy and then at the end are really glad that they participated and I think this is a great option available that has been shown to improve outcomes for pregnancy and for babies. So I think that if you are interested, as your prenatal care provider if this is a good option for you at your first visit and give it a chance, you may be surprised.

Host: What great information. Thank you so much for joining us Emily and sharing this program with us. What a wonderful program. That wraps up this episode of Boston Med Talks with Boston Medical Center. Head on over to our website at bmc.org/obgyn for more information on Centering Pregnancy and to get connected with one of our providers. If you found this podcast informative, please share with your friends and family and any women that you know, share on your social media and be sure to check out all the other interesting podcasts in our library. I’m Melanie Cole.