Georgia is facing a pregnancy care crisis – we currently have the highest rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. Georgia received a D in the March of Dimes 2017 Premature Birth Report Card and ranks fifth highest for infant mortality rates according to the CDC. In the past 20 years, 30 percent of Georgia’s rural labor and delivery units have closed. Annually, 25,000 pregnant women in Georgia must travel more than 45 minutes for prenatal visits. Things need to change to improve the health of mothers in Georgia and Centering Pregnancy could help.

Centering Pregnancy (https://www.centeringhealthcare.org/what-we-do/centering-pregnancy) is a group approach to providing prenatal care and education. In this model of care, the clinician does a brief private visit to screen for medical problems and the remainder of the time is spent in a group, where information and social support are shared between the women and the professional caregiver. The “Centering Pregnancy” model of care is not just a stopgap measure. Women like the shorter wait times, increased opportunity to ask questions, and the support they receive. Women who attend Centering Pregnancy sessions are more satisfied with their care than women who have traditional maternity visits. For clinics, group prenatal visits allow for efficient use of clinic staff, eases scheduling, reduces costs, and leaves the main patient rooms available for other clinic patients. The more efficient use of clinic resources can help reduce the costs of managing prenatal care in Georgia’s rural health centers.

This simple change – providing basic information in groups – has huge results. Women who attend Centering Pregnancy sessions are less likely to give birth prematurely, saving Medicaid $15,000 per child. Women are better able to control their blood sugar which can reduce the need for induction of labor at the end of pregnancy. Women who attend Centering Pregnancy sessions are more likely to be successful at breastfeeding, go to postpartum visits, and use a highly effective method of birth control if they plan to delay their next pregnancy. When women stay healthy during pregnancy, they can give birth at their local community hospital. This saves Medicaid money, helps keep community hospital delivery units open, and prevents Georgia’s mothers from having to drive long distances to give birth. The State of Georgia has approved funding for Centering Pregnancy programs to be implemented across the state.

Centering Pregnancy does require changing the way a clinic provides prenatal care, but staff adapt quickly and are highly satisfied with group care. The luxury of having the same health care provider for prenatal care as well as delivery is increasingly rare. But the good news is that group sessions restore some of the continuity by keeping groups of women together; women talk to each other, offering answers and asking their questions.

This Mother’s Day, help the mothers in Georgia by telling your county health department to look into using the Centering Pregnancy model for prenatal care.

Helen Baker, Priscilla Hall and Jennifer Vanderlaan

Atlanta

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