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Group prenatal care reduces preterm birth and low birth weight

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Posted October 12, 2018

Researchers at Yale School of Public Health have found that group prenatal care for expecting mothers reduces the risks for preterm birth and low birth weight.

The findings are published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

This study, conducted in collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, examined over 9,000 women and found that women who received either CenteringPregnancy or Expect With Me group prenatal care compared to traditional one-on-one care.

Mothers and babies pose for a photo. Image credit: U.S. Army, Paxton Busch, Public Domain

Researchers found that group prenatal care patients had a 37 percent lower risk of having a preterm birth and a 38 percent lower risk of having a low birth weight baby than women receiving traditional one-on-one care. Better attendance at the group visits also resulted in more pronounced benefits. Women with five or more group prenatal care visits had a 68 percent lower risk of having a preterm birth and a 66 percent lower risk of having a low birth weight baby than their peers receiving traditional care.

These findings come from the largest study comparing group prenatal care to traditional one-on-one care, to date.

“The health benefits of group prenatal care are enormous,” said Jessica Lewis, deputy director of pregnancy research at Yale School of Public Health and a co-author of the study. “Preterm birth and low birth weight are the second leading causes of infant mortality in the US, and cost more than $38 billion dollars per year.”

Group prenatal care typically brings together 8 to 12 women for 2-hour long sessions on the same schedule as traditional prenatal care. Each patient gets a brief one-on-one check-up and then most of the time is spent in a facilitated discussion on the topics of pregnancy and childbirth. Women receive 20 hours of care over the course of a pregnancy, compared to 2 hours in traditional care.

Groups are led by prenatal care providers, who offer education and support, while working to increase patient engagement. Expect With Me includes a social media platform, where women can continue to access resources, track their health metrics and connect with other moms and providers between visits.

Previous studies of group prenatal care have primarily focused on young, low-income, minority women. The study provides evidence that group prenatal care sharply reduces adverse birth outcomes for a diversity of women, said lead author Shayna Cunningham, Ph.D., research scientist at Yale School of Public Health. “We need to expand access to group prenatal care for all women to improve outcomes and eliminate health disparities.”

“Future analyses will aim to understand the mechanisms by which group prenatal care results in better outcomes,” Cunningham said.

Source: Yale University

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