Pregnancy is both a beautiful and challenging time in a woman’s life. No matter the situation, all pregnant women have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns about the changes in their lives and their bodies – not to mention a lot of questions about caring for a newborn baby!

CMU Health is determined to boost the health of newborn babies and their mothers through an innovative program called CenteringPregnancy. In partnership with MiHIA and initially funded through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, this Phase 1 Intervention addresses prenatal, maternal, and infant health. CenteringPregnancy provides expecting mothers the care they need in a comfortable, empowering, and supportive group setting. Here’s how it works: upon joining, mothers are brought together according to the due dates. The groups meet together with their healthcare provider discussing concerns and asking questions – receiving 10x more time with their provider, while creating lasting connections with the other 8-to-12 women in their group. In addition to typical health assessments and private individual check-ups, there is a focus on topics like labor and delivery, nutrition, breastfeeding, stress management, common discomforts, benefits of good dental hygiene and the importance of follow-up care after the baby is born.

Led in part by Vickie Mello, D.O., the program is working for its participants and their babies. “Personally, and professionally, it is a very rewarding experience to see my groups flourish and birth healthy babies. I recently facilitated a group of pregnant women and several of them were teenage mothers having their first baby. The laughs and support they received from each other was really inspiring,” said Dr. Mello. So were the results: all of them made it to full term; there were zero unplanned c-sections; and all were planning on breastfeeding.

In the Great Lakes Bay Region, preterm birth and infant mortality are serious public health problems. Current rates of premature babies are higher in our region compared to the rest of the country.

We also have lower breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding is healthier for a baby as it provides immunities and studies show, among other things, that it lowers rates of obesity later in life. Increasing breastfeeding by helping new mothers with this skill and its corresponding logistics is a very important priority according to Dr. Mello.  “While we continue to collect data on the full impact of our program, I am really pleased for my patients. Overall, this program is providing enhanced care for expectant mothers while making each woman the center of her maternity care during and after the birth of the baby and empowering her to be in charge of her health.”

And now, participants have the opportunity to join CenteringParenting, where they get support and learn parenting skills.

If you are an expectant mother, or know someone who is pregnant and would like more information, please contact Centering@cmich.edu