The program, called the Centering Pregnancy Program, is the first of its kind in Queens. Researchers hope the study will echo the results of previous studies which have indicated that group pre-natal care may decrease pregnancy complications and premature births. Joan Hughes, a certified nurse midwife and one of the leaders of the program, said Centering Pregnancy allows women to discuss their experiences with others in the same situation rather than just going through a doctor or nurse as is the case with individual care. "It empowers the women to take some of the control over their own bodies. They build community and friendship," Hughes said. "It's not really a support group, but there is this support of one another." Angelica Gomez, one of the first participants in the program, seconded Hughes' statements. "You get to learn from them and their experiences, and it makes the whole pregnancy experience less frightening," Gomez said.The first group of 20 to 25 expectant mothers, all of whom are due to give birth in May, met for their first of 10 sessions in December, which will increase in frequency over the next several months. "The [Centering Pregnancy] program should prove to be extremely beneficial to pregnant women in our community," explained Dr. Allan Jacobs, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "In fact, previous studies have already indicated that group prenatal care decreases pregnancy complications and premature births." At these sessions, expectant mothers actively participate in their prenatal care, Hughes said. The mothers are instructed on how to take their weight, blood pressure, estimate their gestational age, and record this information on a chart. The group facilitator listens to the baby's heart beat, checks for uterine growth and talks individually about specific problems and concerns a patient may have."That's one of the beauties of doing this in a clinical setting," Hughes said. "Everything is done in one room."All sonograms and other necessary testing takes place as traditional individual prenatal care. Hughes said the Centering Pregnancy Program is covered by most insurance plans the same way that a traditional individual care program would be, with no additional costs incurred. The program is open to all women and Flushing Hospital said it anticipates launching several additional groups. For more information about the Centering Pregnancy Program, contact Flushing's Ambulatory Care Women's Health Unit at 718-670-8994. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@
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