The Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation’s new Centering Pregnancy program brings expecting parents into a group setting to receive basic prenatal checkups, build community and learn more about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Instead of 10- to 20-minute individual visits with an obstetrician, participants meet with a doctor together for two hours. In September 2019, ABSMC launched its first class with 13 moms due to deliver in March 2020. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been the only class to finish the program.
“Centering Pregnancy is amazing for our patients because everyone in pregnancy has similar questions,” says Sutter East Bay Medical Group OB-GYN Vineela Poddatoori, M.D., who led the first cohort. “The group setting reassures participants that what they are going through is normal, and it allows me to reinforce facts and dispel myths for many people at once.”
New mom Liz Lundmark is thankful she was lucky enough to be a part of the first cohort. “My husband, Dan, and I always left the sessions feeling more educated about our pregnancy,” she says. “One session, someone asked about something I had never even heard of, and two days later I experienced the same thing! But thanks to the class, I knew not to worry.”
During Liz and Dan’s last in-person class, Dr. Poddatoori expressed concern about Liz’s third-trimester symptoms and advised her to go to the hospital. That proved fortuitous, as she was admitted to the hospital and delivered their healthy baby, Lydia, three weeks earlier than expected.
For Liz, another unexpected turn was having to navigate first-time parenthood during a pandemic. “As a new mother locked down in isolation, I realized how much I value the Centering group,” she says. “We couldn’t have people over to the house to see the baby or to help, and we didn’t want to leave — it was a little bit scary. We formed a group on Facebook called March of the Babies to keep sharing experiences. We’ve had a couple of Zoom calls and are planning safe in-person outings as well.”
Right now, Dr. Poddatoori and her colleagues are reimagining a more virtual Centering Pregnancy program, which should begin this year. They will cut the number of sessions to three and use technology to hold group sessions for important periods of pregnancy, including weeks 21 and 31 and two weeks after birth, to discuss postpartum depression.
Centering Pregnancy is funded in part by gracious local donors. “The generosity of the community has been terrific,” Dr. Poddatoori says. “They’ve supported not only this program but all of our healthcare workers in so many ways during the pandemic. We are very grateful.”
If you are interested in supporting Centering Pregnancy, contact Jody Policar at email@example.com.