Becoming a parent is an experience like no other. But for new mothers and fathers there's a lot to prepare for when a baby comes into the picture.
"I thought as a first-time mom it would be a good experience to learn all I could about being a mom and having a baby." Said Anna Suckow.
Anna is just one of the new mommies who chose to take part in the women's centering group at Avera McKennan. Centering is a model of prenatal care where women with similar due dates meet together to learn and discuss in a group setting the changes going on in their bodies and their growing families.
"We all came with the nerves and questions and not really knowing what to expect but just having that experience with other people was really comforting." Said Suckow.
Dr. Kimberlee McKay brought the centering group to Avera McKennan after her own birth experience left her ill-prepared to care for her new baby. She quickly found out, like Anna did, sometimes a pregnant woman's best resource is another woman.
"There's so many things I would never have thought to ask Dr. McKay but the other girls thought of different questions and had different things they thought about doing with their pregnancy or birthing experience so learning from all the other girls was awesome as well as learning from doctors and nurses." Said Suckow.
The centering groups meet every few weeks starting at the second trimester. Each session parents get a one-on-one with their doctor, but the majority of the time is group discussion.
"That's the point of having a facilitated group versus a didactic training session where in a didactic session I'm sitting up and pointing to diagrams and things like that so they're teaching each other essentially and they teach me really! They teach me a lot!" Said Dr. McKay.
Centering is not just a class to prepare mothers for their birthing experience, there's a medical benefit as well. Studies show women who go through a centering group, initiate breast feeding and stick with it longer, they also have less postpartum depression, and less pre term labor. But for Marilyne Trudel-Larson, there's also the benefit of making new lifelong friends.
"Getting to know all the moms and creating a contact list of people that are going thru the same thing as you I think is wonderful, and I'm still in contact with those ladies and we text each other and on Facebook post pictures and ask advice of each other so it's really really great to be apart of it." Said Trudel-Larson.
And once the hard part is over, there's the reunion.
"This is the cherry on top of the sundae, it's just a joy to observe and be apart of." Said Dr. McKay.
Using the tools they learned from Dr. McKay and each other, these new mommies and daddies can now look forward to the joys and trials of parenthood.
"It's not hard to care for a baby but it's definitely demanding, it's stressful, it's very stressful." Said Trudel-Larson.
"It is completely life-changing and just having other people to go through it with, is an amazing experience." Said Suckow.
The cost of a centering group is no different than if you scheduled individual visits throughout your pregnancy. For more information about Avera Women's or pregnancy centering groups just call 877-AT-AVERA.