For mothers-to-be, finding health care in a group

From the Fixes Blog at the New York Times:

Recently in a nondescript conference room near Union Square in Manhattan, eight very pregnant women, husbands, boyfriends and a sister sat in a circle around a small patchwork quilt for two hours and talked about managing the discomforts of pregnancy.

The remedies discussed ranged from the ultimate — epidural: yes or no? — to the prosaic, including that cliché of pregnancy: “I don’t get acid reflux if I have a pickle,” said a woman named Kimberly, to general laughter. “I have two pickles right before bed and it’s fine.”

They drank seltzer and ate strawberries, bananas, hummus and carrots and cereal bars. They watched videos about labor pain and interviewed doulas. The meeting looked like a social gathering or a support group.

It did not look like what it was: a doctor’s appointment.

The Institute for Family Health runs the group, using a model created by the Centering Healthcare Institute. Centering Pregnancy sites provide group medical visits for pregnant women; Centering Parenting sites gather new mothers and their babies for the first year of life.

When they arrived, one by one the patients rotated through stations to get their regular prenatal checkups. They took their own blood pressure, weighed themselves, stretched out on a cot behind a screen so Dr. Insung Min could listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and sat with Dr. Rachel Rosenberg (no relation) in another corner for the traditional chat with the doctor. The usual checkups, however, are only part of the health care the group provides. Being part of a community, the research shows, is also good medicine.

The idea behind Centering (the name refers to care that is centered on the patient) is to help mothers — especially low-income mothers — become more involved in their own care, to acquire the skills and confidence to take care of themselves and their babies, and to have a community.

Read more here.

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