It's been one year since UAMS started offering CenteringPregnancy, a program that gives expecting moms a chance to do their prenatal care with a small group of eight to ten women. In a private group setting, moms meet with a doctor and other women who have due dates close to each other for 10 sessions throughout the pregnancy. UAMS is the only hospital in the state offering the program and they say it's already making a huge difference for families in Arkansas.

One of the current groups going through CenteringPregnancy has been meeting together for over eight months. Some of the members say pregnancy has been a journey; a journey best traveled together.

For Jen Freilino, she’s enjoyed being part of the group because the pregnancy experience is all new to her.

“This is my first baby, so I don’t know a lot of this stuff,” she said.

That’s why she is soaking up all she can from the doctors and fellow participants.

“I’m learning about the birthing process, what to expect, things to look out for,” she said. “You don't know what you don't know, so it’s nice.”

Madeleine Robinson, UAMS Clinical Services Manager at the University Women’s Clinic, said the group comradery and extended time with health providers in CenteringPregnancy has been making a tangible difference for moms and babies.

“Studies prove when adults are having fun and are engaged in something, they learn more,” she said. “When you learn more, you do better and your health improves.”

Nearly 75 women have completed the UAMS CenteringPregnancy program in the last year. Compared to women who did not go through the program, women who were in the program saw improvements in things like increased breastfeeding, decreased health disparities, fewer cases of babies with low birth weight and less premature births.

“Not only are you getting improved health outcomes but you are building a community that you can rely on during pregnancy and after pregnancy,” said Robinson.

Shalinda Starks is in her second pregnancy and has loved the CenteringPregnancy experience. She wishes she would have had CenteringPregnancy available the first time around to learn more information and have a better support system.

“The first time I was on a whim but now I know a lot of stuff and I am more educated with it,” said Starks.

She said her favorite part is being with the other moms in the program.

“We’ve all gotten so close,” she said.

She’s thankful that all of the women in her group have each other. She’s also thankful she can be an encouragement to them.

“The first time moms are so scared and I always be like, don't worry you’ll get through it,” she said. “Once you get the first labor pain you will forget about everything else and you'll be ready to have your baby.”

For more information about CenteringPregnancy visit here