Centering Pregnancy at Kaiser Oakland

Hi community

Has anyone had experience with the Centering Pregnancy prenatal care program at Kaiser Oakland?

We just found out we are pregnant with our first child at age 36 and are trying to determine if we should stick with our current OB-GYN (who is amazing!!) in favor of these group based appointments.

thanks in advance for your help

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We did it in 2017 and LOVED it! The program was just called the prenatal group program back then -- I don't know if they changed anything fundamental about after re-naming "Centering Pregnancy."

I would highly recommend the program. Our son just turned 2, and we still regularly hang out with several of the couples that we met in the group. We've basically had a support system built-in from the beginning, all due to participating in the program. It made a huge difference to go through the whole process with the other parents. We've become good friends with one set of parents in particular, and our children now go to the same daycare/preschool. You can still check in with your OB if you want, and you'll likely see your OB for your last couple of check-ups before your due date. We all learned from each other during the group sessions, as many of us brought up various unique questions that the rest of us hadn't thought of. 

Hope that helps!

Congratulations! My husband and I participated in centering in 2017-2018. We had an incredibly positive experience with it, and I think it played a big role in our overall experience in the early days of parenthood being largely positive. The group setting is about more than medical care. Each meeting focuses on a different aspect of pregnancy, childbirth, or early parenthood. It's an opportunity to have some focused time to prepare yourselves mentally for the major life transition. It's also an opportunity for your partner to be more engaged in the process because the conversations are about more than just your pregnancy. Finally, our group managed to make the leap from the Centering process to being a support group after we all gave birth. We met for regular playdates when many of us were on parental leave, we have a vibrant text thread to complain or ask advice, we went camping together, and we continue to provide support to each other even 12+ months into parenting. This is certainly not the norm, but if you or others in the group are motivated enough to make it happen, it is a great way to create a community of fellow parents. A drawback is that the check up portion of the group meetings is pretty light touch --- you take your own vitals and get a quick ultrasound and have a few minutes to chat with the doctor or midwife leader. Kaiser seems to have no problem if you want to make follow up appointments to talk about specific concerns, but it does take a bit more effort than if you were in the normal ob/gyn track.

We did the centering pregnancy program at UCSF at it was the best experience! I have a group of 10 moms I regularly speak to and have play dates with as a result of the group, it is a wonderful program.

I stayed with my (Sutter-affiliated) OBGYN in lieu of going with a centering group, and I regret it. Unless your OBGYN will actually be there for the birth of your child, it doesn’t seem to matter which group you go with. And I what that the support provided by a centering group is really wonderful! 

Hi,

I had my first baby in October 2017 and decided to join the centering program at Oakland Kaiser. My husband and I enjoyed it and the doctors who organized it. It was really lovely meeting all of the other soon-to-be parents (most of them were first timers as well) and learning more than I think I would if I were left to ask all of my own questions. We started a Whatsapp group after all the babies were born and that has been very helpful when we want to ask others if they are experiencing the same woes and milestones and sharing useful resources. I think the Centering Program really depends on the group and the organizers. I had a co-worker who did Centering in Vallejo and didn't like it because it was not organized and no one really participated or opened up to each other. 

I hope this helps you with your decision. 

Personally it wasn’t for us. We tried it for a few sessions but because I’m someone who does all the research, takes all the classes, etc the information wasn’t new and the other couples didn’t seem interested in outside socializing. We dropped out and went back to my OB who was great.

Hi! I participated in the program a few years during my first pregnancy and found it to be really helpful. We got to discuss pregnancy and babies in a safe space with others in our same circumstance. The meetings/discussions were lead by docs, but it felt like an open forum, not an agenda driven group. And you also got personal attention from one of the docs during each session if you needed to talk about something in private. We are actually still friends with a few of the other couples. I would definitely recommend it!

Hello,

yes, I am currently in a centering group at kaiser Oakland. I do like it because as a first time mother, there is space and time to ask questions. I also appreciate the support from other couples due at the same time since we are new to the area. I did not have a relationship with my OB/GYN prior so I can understand if you’d want to remain with that person. I’d say if you’re looking for more support/learning atmosphere it’s great. 

I did the Centering Pregnancy recently and have mixed feelings. I liked the group setting as a way to meet other new parents but didn’t like the facilitation style all that much. I did a lot of reading about pregnancy and related topics on my own so by the time certain topics came up in the group meetings I already knew most of the information. At times I felt like I wasn’t getting the necessary attention to ensure everything was going well with my pregnancy but I think that was just me worrying and overthinking things. I had a straightforward and uncomplicated pregnancy so there was no need for worry but it did feel at times like less attention compared to what you usually hear about regarding the type and frequency of certain exams and appointments. 

CONGRATS!    

Our baby is 16 month old, and we elected the Kaiser Centering program.   The biggest advantage for us was the community of other expectant parents.   The "curriculum" was a bit lacking (from my educator's lens), and while the basic check-ups were adequate, they were not at the level of my wife's OB... like you, she was really happy with this doctor.

Throughout, my wife stayed in contact w/ her OB.   If there are any concerns, complications, or you simply want to change back to seeing your OB, it was possible.   

We ended up selecting one of the doctors from the Centering Program as our baby's doctor.   We have been very happy with that choice and grateful that we have stayed connected to a couple of the families we met.    

From my personal experience as a 1st time dad-to-be, I felt valued and included in Centering and got a lot out of meeting other partners of the birth parent.   This helped me to be supportive of my wife and was also personally enriching.

Long story short, while not withstanding some glitches, my wife and I were both happy with the choice to do Kaiser Centering.

~ Dennis

First of all, congratulations!

I’m pregnant with my first child, and participating in the Centering Pregnancy program at Kaiser. We’ve only met once so far (it starts up during the second trimester), but it seems great. There are 6 other pregnant people in the group (5 of whom brought their partners to the first meeting) and 2 experienced Ob/Gyn doctors facilitating. During the group, you take your own blood pressure and weight (with assistance from your partner or the nursing assistant) and then have a brief private consultation with one of the docs to voice private concerns and listen to the heartbeat or have an ultrasound as appropriate. It’s great to be able to chat and connect with other expectant parents and I can already see the potential for real friendships to develop, which is a huge plus, since I know for a lot of new parents it can feel pretty isolating at first. The other big benefit for us is that our group is after working hours.

In my opinion, there isn’t really any reason not to try it, as you can switch back to your private Ob/Gyn at any time, but once the group fills up you won’t be able to join.

Let me know if you have any more specific questions!

We did the centering pregnancy for our first pregnancy. I was also 36 and had a ob/gyn that I loved! 

What I liked was being in a group with other first time parents and being able to talk about all the stuff we were all experiencing and getting informed information from the doctors who ran the group. I think we were really the only couple in the upper 30's (geriatric) but it wasn't an issue. There were single moms there too. Essentially, it was very inclusive of all parents. We ended up switching to a family practitioner (the one who ran the group) because we liked her so much. I loved that it was in the evenings so it was much easier to fit into our schedule. If you do it - bring food! There weren't snack and I really needed those! 

We didn't do any of the post groups where everyone met each other's babies, but that's just because we're a little anti-social. 

Would definitely do it again, 

I didn't love the Centering Pregnancy group (and full disclosure, I only went to two sessions before I switched back to my regular OB). It sounded great in theory because my OB recommended it and I was looking forward to getting to know the other people in the group. It ended up not being the best fit for me because even though I discovered I prefer a more one-on-one interaction with a doctor as opposed to the more communal feel of the Centering group. I also liked being able to ask questions and get a more direct answer (example: I would ask a question about running during pregnancy, people in the group would weigh in with their experiences, and the midwives would be very careful not to shut anyone down if they disagreed or had a different answer...which I can absolutely sympathize with, being a teacher myself). I think it's fairly easy to switch back to your OB if you want to try the group out, though, and my OB said lots of people love it!

Hi, I’m a midwife and pregnant with my first and strongly recommend centering. It is a great way to meet new parents and it is wonderful to have more than 15 minutes to have your questions answered. I would definitely go to a group or two and see how it feels!

Congratulations! I did Centering Pregnancy at Kaiser Oakland and had a good experience. It has a support group type of atmosphere, which I found helpful since it was also my first pregnancy. Groups would start off with time for each mom to get blood pressure, weight, and baby's heartbeat checked, then we would discuss various topics as a group. It got off to a slow start and the first few meetings were a little boring, but after that we covered a lot of information. The midwife who ran our group was very knowledgeable, and it was nice to have two hours every few weeks to ask her any questions. You can also talk to her privately at each meeting if you don't want to bring something up in front of the group. I didn't know my regular OB/GYN well, so I didn't feel like I was missing out by not seeing her instead.

It was also really fun to meet everyone's babies at the last meeting, and many of the moms have kept in touch afterward.

NPR did an article on the Centering program recently, in case that's helpful.

Good luck with your decision, and I hope everything goes smoothly with your pregnancy!

Congrats on your pregnancy. We did the centering program last year and had an amazing experience. I was 34 during the classes and my husband was 37. We really liked the other couples in the group and we still see many of them on a regular basis. For us as first time parents it was a great way to meet other couples in the area going through the same thing. I liked the format in that it allowed for a lot of time to talk through different issues and get advice from peers as well as the doctor, nurse and medical students. The medical students also helped during my delivery as stand in doulas/ sets of extra hands to get water and help with the nurses etc. The physical “check-up” portion of each appointment is pretty brief but I had a healthy pregnancy so it didn’t bother me. Overall I would highly recommend it

Congratulations! I was part of a centering group at Kaiser Oakland for my daughter who was born in January (after it was recommended by a friend who was in a centering group in Redwood City). I really enjoyed the community from centering. A core group of us continued to meet up during our maternity leaves and we have a good text/email chain going. Ours was led by family practice physicians, and one of them is now my doctor and my daughter's doctor. We really appreciate that continuity in care. Centering also has discussions on issues beyond pregnancy (parenting, birth control after birth, post partum issues) that we also appreciated. Overall it was a great experience for us
Best of luck!

I don't have experience with Kaiser Oakland specifically, but do with Centering. Definitely recommend it as a central (no pun intended) and positive experience of our pregnancy, birth, and childhood so far.

My wife, 37 years old, and I participated in the Centering program organized by UCSF before the birth our now-four-month-old son. The Centering sessions were great at covering a wide range of topics in a group setting that's much more engaging and interactive than a doctor's visit. A greater time investment, for sure, but if you can manage that with work, we found it worthwhile. We were lucky that the OB and Midwife that ran the group we're also amazing! We formed some lasting bonds with the other parents in our group and all still hang out with our babies even now that the structured Centering program has ended.

Happy to answer specific questions you might have, just reach out. For us, I can't imagine a first pregnancy without Centering, and we're very happy we went that route.

Hi and congrats on your pregnancy!

I participated in Centering at Kaiser Oakland (cohort of babes due Feb 2018) and I’m very glad I did, even though I was sad not to stay with my Ob/Gyn for my pregnancy.

The actual Centering sessions during the pregnancy were just ok - it’s a standardized model so some of the content felt basic and there were times when I wished I weren’t spending 2 hrs on a Saturday doing Centering.

HOWEVER, once people started having their babies & coming back to share, our particular group started gelling and it was awesome to hear people’s birth stories.

The best part of Centering has been after the group actually ended. Our group gathered for weekly walks while we were all on maternity leave and now, more than a year later, we all meet up with our babes monthly and are in constant text communication. The community and support that resulted from Centering has been invaluable & made it all worth it. 

There are various facilitators of Centering; both of mine were great. One  additional benefit is that you can choose the facilitator to be your baby’s provider, which means you get to know your babe’s provider in advance. 

The age range in my group for parents was about 29-38; and our group happened to be all straight & partnered couples, not sure how other groups trend.

Hope this info is helpful. Congrats & good luck with your pregnancy!

Hi! I just found out I'm pregnant with my second, and had my first in November at Kaiser Walnut Creek. I'm about to start prenatal care again, and was offered the same program. My guess is that it's rather new, as I was receiving prenatal care last year at this time with Kaiser and wasn't offered group based appointments. My OB was great last year, but our appointments were always pretty brief. I'm thinking of checking out this program too in the hopes that it will foster community with the other moms.

A BIG thank you to everyone who took the time to share their experiences.  I really appreciate your perspectives and we have decided to give the program a try!  I hope it will help us better connect with new parents and am glad many of you had such positive experiences.  Thanks again!