Babies born to moms in the study were also less likely to be low birthweight
Getting prenatal care in a group setting, rather than individually, can lead to better health outcomes for both mom and baby, a new study finds.
Women who received group prenatal care were 33 percent less likely to deliver babies who were small for gestational age. In addition, group-care recipients had reduced risk for preterm delivery and low birthweight. (Despite lower preterm birth rates in the United States, black women are still more likely to deliver too soon.) Babies born to these women also spent fewer days in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Another bonus: Mothers with more group prenatal care visits were less likely to become pregnant again quickly after giving birth, an important outcome known as “birth spacing” that reduces the chances of having another baby at risk for preterm delivery.
“Few clinical interventions have had an impact on birth outcomes,” said lead author Jeannette R. Ickovics, professor in the Yale School of Public Health. “Group prenatal care is related to improved health outcomes for mothers and babies, without adding risk. If scaled nationally, group prenatal care could lead to significant improvements in birth outcomes, health disparities, and health-care costs.”
For the study, Ickovics and her team conducted a randomized controlled trial in 14 health centers in New York City, and compared the birth outcomes of women who received CenteringPregnancy Plus group prenatal care to those who received traditional individual care.
The more than 1,000 women in the study were separated into groups of 8 to 12 women at the same gestational point in their pregnancies, and were cared for by a clinician and a medical assistant. The study found the higher the number of group visits attended, the lower the rates of adverse birth outcomes.
CenteringPregnancy group prenatal care includes the same treatment as individual visits, but all care (with the exception of matters that require privacy) take place in a group setting. Group visits build in additional time for education, skill building and the opportunity to discuss and learn from the experience of peers. Expectant moms also have more face-to-face time with caregivers.
Despite the opportunity for frequent visits, many mothers in at-risk groups, including teens and those from low-income areas, still experience a high rate of negative birth outcomes. The study focused on adolescent women, ages 14 to 21, in disadvantaged areas, with no other known health risks to their pregnancies.
Researchers said they need to identify the reasons why group sessions yielded better outcomes, whether it is the additional time for education, the built-in social support or other factors.
Additional studies are also needed to understand what influences patients to stick to group care session schedules. Future studies could also show whether the results from this study indicate the group care model could be expanded to include other types of patients.