Pregnant mothers see benefits from group prenatal visits

More low-income women are going for prenatal visits as part of a group, and as a result they tend to have fewer premature births than women who go for individual visits. Women who participate in group visits also tend to have a more positive pregnancy.

Because of the positive results, the March of Dimes has given over $1 million in grants to fund programs around the U.S. that focus on group prenatal visits. The Centering Pregnancy programs incorporate family members, peer support and education for expecting moms.

The March of Dimes "helps by partnering with community health organizations to reduce preterm birth," says Scott Berns, MDMPH, senior vice president, chapter programs at the March of Dimes. "We look for things that have been shown to have an impact, for example, smoking cessation. Centering Pregnancy has been shown to decrease preterm births significantly."

Over 540,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the U.S., according to Berns. Preterm babies are at risk of long-term health problems and disabilities, which can result in prolonged hospitalization and high medical costs

African-American women have a higher risk of having preterm births, although white women actually have more premature babies when you look at the actual number of premature births, says Berns. A study conducted in 2007 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that young, predominantly African-American women who participated in group prenatal visits had fewer premature babies compared to those who received additional individual prenatal care.