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What to expect when you’re expecting: New program offers an innovative group approach to prenatal care


Date: March 1, 2013
Media Contact: Ashley Wiggin,, 206-221-2456

When Maria goes to her prenatal care visit, she isn’t getting your typical 10 minute visit with her provider. Instead, she is welcomed into a group of women who are encouraged to have an active role in their health; by tracking their own pregnancy measurements, blood pressure and weight before spending time with their providers both in a group and on an individual level. The women in the group are encouraged to share experiences and concerns as they go through their pregnancies. The two-hour long sessions Maria attends are led by a Family Practice doctor from the University of Washington Medical Center and a certified Nurse Midwife, part of a new program called CenteringPregnancy now underway at Columbia Health Center in Southeast Seattle. With support from the March of Dimes, UW Medicine and the help of two School of Nursing DNP students, the program has already “graduated” its first set of participants (mothers gave birth in August at UWMC) to stellar results: data shows that the rates of low-birthweight and pre-term birth are greatly reduced in the CenteringPregnancy program.

“This project has been incredibly rewarding,” said Jen Taylor, UW SoN DNP midwifery student. “Not only have we received excellent feedback from women involved in CenteringPrengnancyTM, but we have also been able to collaborate with healthcare providers and face real life challenges in getting a project off the ground.” 

centering pregnancy groupcentering pregnancy groupTaylor and classmate Jessica Burke-Lazarus got involved in the project early last Spring after reading about the positive outcomes of CenteringPregnancy programs nationwide. Seeking ideas for their capstone work, the pair jumped at the chance to have a hands-on experience at working to improve care for lower-income expectant mothers and their babies. When it launched in March 2012, the CenteringPregnancy program at Columbia Health became the first in the Seattle area to cater to women using medical coupons.

“We are happy to be able to contribute something of value to Columbia Health,” said Burke-Lazarus. “Rather than writing a dissertation that will sit on a shelf, what we are doing for this project has an immediate impact on improving the care women are receiving.”

Jane Huntington, Family Practice Doctor at UWMC, notes that the curriculum of the CenteringPregnancy program touches on a lot of issues women struggle with, including breast feeding, pain during childbirth and concerns about what to expect in the pregnancy process.

“Pregnancy is a time when women undergo a lot of changes, but can also be a very exciting time for them,” She said. “It’s a great time for them to take control of their health as well as they gain awareness of what they need to do to be healthy.”

The program draws a diverse group of participants, including women who are experiencing their first pregnancy and others who have had multiple pregnancies. Huntington and certified Nurse-Midwife Kathleen Kenney collaborate with nurses and family practice residents from UW to closely monitor the women in their group and assess their individual needs as well as offer guidance. All of the participants will go on to deliver their babies at UW Medical Center, creating a sense of community among the participants and the opportunity to track and report data back to the March of Dimes on the program’s outcomes.

Kenny knows the positive impact that the program is having on both the babies and the mothers at Columbia. Kenny leads groups in both English and Spanish, encouraging women to connect with others who are experiencing pregnancy.

“The women who choose to go through this programs see a multitude of benefits; everything from a stronger community of women to connect with during pregnancy to higher birthweight babies and lower-rates of pre-term birth.”

Kenny feels that CenteringPregnancy is a program that allows for both the providers and the patients to have a stronger connection both to eachother and their pregnancy.

“As a provider, I love the program,” she said. “It gives us more time with our patients and a chance to know them better while still giving the participants the information they need and a great chance to connect with other women going through the same things.”

Centering Pregnancy mother and babyCentering Pregnancy mother and babyNurse Manager Beth Tinker first saw CenteringPregnancy program success in other areas, and it quickly drew her attention as a way to serve the diverse and non-connected community that Columbia serves. Tinker explained that after extensive reading and research on the CenteringPregnancy program, she and her team decided it was a good fit for the Columbia Center due to the lack of community often felt by local patients.

“One of the big challenges with our clients is that they don’t have much of a community support network,” she said. “CenteringPregnancy creates an instant support-system for these women—often they create lasting friendships and connections and have others with whom they can connect when they have questions and concerns during their pregnancy. We think that’s a great thing for them to have!”

Tinker also notes that the support from SoN DNP students has been vital to the program’s success so far. The pair has been working with the Columbia Public Health Center since Spring 2012 to raise awareness about the program and help the staff transition to this new model of care.

“Having Jessica and Jen help us get this program started has made so much possible for us,” said Tinker. “Their work at publicizing and getting word out about the program has made it possible for these groups of women to come to Columbia and have a great pregnancy experience.”

Hundreds of CenteringPregnancyTM programs exist around the country and many new programs are being started as more people are learning about the many benefits of this prenatal care model. While the program has only seen one set of mothers give birth so far, all of the practitioners note that their perceptions of the program have been nothing but positive.

“It’s been great to see these women progress through the program and have healthy babies,” Huntington said. “Everyone has been extremely positive about their experiences with the program.”

Looking forward, Tinker hopes that Columbia Health Center will become the “go-to” for those interested in participating in a Centering program locally. As more expecting mothers explore their prenatal care options and learn about the CenteringPregnancy program, she believes Columbia will become an important option for health care delivery.

“We want this to go from being a place that has a CenteringPregnancy program to “the” place to go,” she said. “We want Columbia to become a place where people come for this type of care.”


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-rated nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 2 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2011, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit

Photo captions:

Top: A centering pregnancy group meets with Kathleen Kenny (in blue) and Beth Tinker, RN. Participants include Karla Linares Lopez, Rosy Garcia, Beth Tinker RN, Yulma Sanchez Galvez, Lilia Ramirez
Middle: Karla Linares Lopez practices getting ready for breast feeding with a doll and Beth Tinker's assistance.