March of Dimes: Centering on Reducing Premature Births

When Brittany Hardy and her husband David re-located to Lexington from out of state she was interested in finding a new medical home. Transplant residents often depend on the Internet for advice on the best places to go in their new cities. Brittany was no different, and an Internet search for an OB/GYN practice turned up Lexington Women’s Care, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

Soon after becoming a patient Brittany became pregnant with the couple’s first child. At that time she learned about LWC’s Centering program. Going through a life-changing event like a first pregnancy is daunting even in a familiar place. As newcomers in town, and without an entrenched support system the Hardys were eager to find a network to help them navigate through the weeks and months leading up to the birth of their baby. LWC’s Centering program seemed to be a perfect match for them.

Centering is a program offered at select hospitals, which provides prenatal and postpartum care and support for expectant mothers in a group setting. Centering takes the place of regular doctor’s appointments during the first several months of prenatal care. Then during the last weeks of pregnancy, patients have regular office visits with their doctors.

Through Centering, participants like Brittany, attend a 2-hour monthly session in which expectant mothers with similar due dates are grouped with a doctor and a nurse. The sessions offer a supportive environment in which regular health tests are privately administered and followed by group discussions on a range of topics from nutrition and breastfeeding to infant care.

CenteringPregnancy® is a national model of group prenatal care, which promotes individual health empowerment and community-building. The main goal of the initiative is to lessen the number of preterm births. In South Carolina, this has long been a problem, with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) going so far as to call preterm births an “epidemic” in the state. Around eleven percent of babies born statewide are premature.  In fact, the state regularly receives “D” or “F” grades each year on the annual Prematurity Report Card issued by the March of Dimes.

With funding from the March of Dimes and SCDHHS, selected obstetrics and gynecology practices in the state are training staff on how to conduct Centering. These programs also receive educational material and related supplies. Through a holistic approach to pregnancy, Centering provides a support group for women and also the education and preparation offering the opportunity for the best possible outcomes for a full term birth.

At the Greenville Health System, where CenteringPregnancy® was implemented in 2009, doctors have seen a significant reduction in preterm births as a result of the program. Greenville County as a whole has seen some of the lowest rates of preterm births in the state of under 10 percent.

Brittany and David welcomed their son Boston into the world on April 15, 2016—a healthy 7 lb 11 ½ oz full term baby. They were delighted that Dr. Valerie Skinner, who had served as the facilitator of their Centering group, was on call that day and able to deliver their son.

Brittany values the time she was able to spend with Dr. Skinner during her Centering sessions as they had built a relationship throughout the program. Dr. Skinner also influenced Brittany’s decision to breastfeed her son. “I had not planned on breastfeeding,” Brittany said, “but Dr. Skinner brought in a lactation consultant during one of our sessions, and I reconsidered. I am so glad I ultimately decided to breastfeed Boston.”

Breastfeeding provides benefits that go beyond basic nutrition for a baby. In fact, breastfeeding during the first six months of an infant’s life can help fight diseases and allergies and it can prove beneficial for the mother as well.

Another benefit of the Centering program was that the group talked at length about postpartum depression and the ways to recognize the signs.

“This was a big deal for me,” shared Brittany, “because I was able to easily identify the symptoms of postpartum depression. I would have thought the feelings I was experiencing were normal. Instead I consulted with my doctor. I was able to get it taken care much quicker and ultimately I could thoroughly enjoy these early months with Boston.”

In addition, the LWC’s Centering program provided Brittany with a support group she may not have otherwise had. She felt prepared every step of the way throughout her pregnancy and was ready for the postpartum issues that many mothers have to face. She was also able to bring her husband to many of the Centering sessions.

The Hardys admitted that it was good for their relationship because they were able to learn together throughout the process. “I can’t imagine going through another pregnancy without Centering,” Brittany said.  “I was able to network and develop relationships with other expectant moms—relationships I still value — and most importantly, I found myself in the best possible situation to deliver a healthy, full term baby.”


For more information about the March of Dimes visit or call (843) 571-1776.

For more information about Lexington Women’s Center Centering program visit

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