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Natural Awakenings Richmond

It Takes a Village: Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center Expands CenteringPregnancy

Jun 30, 2014 02:13PM ● By Clair Norman

At the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton made famous the African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The saying demonstrates the power of community to effect the development and formation of an emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy child who can contribute positively to society. With a new program called CenteringPregnancy, offered through Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, some folks are drawing on the power of community to cause positive outcomes in children very early on – during pregnancy.

In this leading innovative prenatal care program, the group effect starts much earlier than the proverb suggests. CenteringPregnancy is a nationally recognized prenatal care program that augments individual care with group sessions that enable the mothers-to-be to discuss health concerns and expectations in a supportive setting. It gives women better control of their prenatal care and has a proven track record of healthier babies and healthier, better-informed new moms.  Additionally, CenteringPregnancy has been proven to prevent prematurity. This occurs through a program that promotes engagement in a way that better connects women with their pregnancy.

“Expectant women are more empowered today than 10 or 20 years ago in making their own healthcare decisions, and CenteringPregnancy helps them achieve this by bringing women out of isolated exam rooms and into groups for their care,” says Mary Anne Graf, vice president of women’s services, Bon Secours Virginia Health System.

After completing their first obstetric appointment at a Bon Secours-affiliated practice or clinic, women receive information on CenteringPregnancy and are offered the choice to participate in the program. Subsequent prenatal visits last two hours during which each participant is called out from the group session for their individual check-up and then returns to the session in progress.  Topics include nutrition and healthy lifestyles, labor and childbirth options, breastfeeding, pregnancy discomforts, newborn care, child development and more. Essentially, it is a dynamic supportive group care option versus traditional private one-on-one care. At times, the more traditional private care option mimics an assembly line process; it can leave expectant mothers disengaged from their pregnancy and reluctant to participate in their care to the degree they would like.

“While moms often desire to be in the driver’s seat of their pregnancy, labor and delivery by making their own choices, they also can find pregnancy to be isolating and intimidating at times. CenteringPregnancy provides a supportive setting of women who often share the same ‘pains and passions’ of pregnancy,” says Graf.

A recent CenteringPregnancy group session
A recent CenteringPregnancy group session
Bon Secours recognizes that pregnancy is a different dance for each mother and that the private care model leaves little room for women to completely engage in their unique pregnancy process. Through this unique model of care, women can become empowered and feel confident in playing a more active role in their pregnancy and overall health. With CenteringPregnancy, participants have access to all of their charts, ultrasounds and lab work, and they are acutely aware of how their pregnancy is progressing. Each woman is supported physically, spiritually, psychologically and socially, through bonds that develop within the group. Plus, the ripple effect from the bonds that form among participants encourages continuing informed decision-making about health and wellness. The friendships can also be passed on to the next generation as moms arrange play dates for themselves and their young children. The village concept, though proverbially thousands of years old, is alive and well in this new approach to prenatal care.

CenteringPregnancy has been on the forefront of healthcare redesign for over a decade and is currently available at more than 50 sites in the US. The cost and insurance coverage of group care through CenteringPregnancy is the same as private care.

For more information, call 804-340-BABY (2229) or visit and

Clair Norman is assistant editor and a staff writer for Natural Awakenings Richmond.