Breastfeeding CenteringPregnancy Program

Mom and baby with program coordinator

A program in place at the Downtown Health Plaza since March 2011 has been offering prenatal care, health assessment and support to pregnant women. 

One element of the CenteringPregnancy Program is helping women learn about the importance of breastfeeding. Statistics show that typically, African-American women and those with lower incomes are less likely to breastfeed. 

So far, the program has had a positive effect, with a 93 percent patient satisfaction rating from those who have participated, said Mary Fitzmaurice, MSN, coordinator of the program and one of three providers who work with the women enrolled. 

Figures from the national CenteringPregnancy Program show a higher rate for breastfeeding by women who go through the program than those with only individual prenatal care. Although the women in the CenteringPregnancy Program meet as a group, they have individual visits with the providers and see physicians as needed throughout their pregnancy. 

Anecdotally, Fitzmaurice says she believes women who have been enrolled in the program at the Downtown Health Plaza are more likely to breastfeed. 

Before they come into the program, she says, she isn't sure they were going to. Or during the program they might say they would try, but worry about the difficulties they might encounter. 

"Then they come back post-partum and my observation is that … a lot of them have been very successful with it,'' Fitzmaurice says. 

The CenteringPregnancy Program at Downtown Health Plaza is one of just seven in the state and the only one in Northwest North Carolina. The CenteringPregnancy Program was started by a Boston-based non-profit interested in the idea of offering group care and education to women during pregnancy. 

At Downtown Health Plaza, 24 groups of 8 to 12 women each have started with the program so far. The Downtown Health Plaza, which targets the underserved population, also offers a bilingual version of the program. 

At their sessions, the women check each others' blood pressure and weight, meet with a provider individually and then have group sessions to discuss topics related to their pregnancy. 

Fitzmaurice says the women discuss the benefits of breastfeeding for their babies, including a reduction in the incidence of asthma, juvenile diabetes, obesity, cavities, illness and infection. Breastfeeding also is good for mothers, reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, some breast cancers and osteoporosis later in life. 

"I don't try to push people into breastfeeding,'' Fitzmaurice says, noting that the CenteringPregnancy Program is based on the idea of the women sharing their thoughts and knowledge as much as lecturing to them. "I do encourage them, and let them come to their own conclusion of what's best for their baby.''

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Last Updated: 09-17-2014
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