Pregnancy can be nerve-racking for soon-to-be moms. There's joy, but also plenty of fear and questions.

A concept that's picking up steam in the Garden State aims to make the nine months much easier on mothers, by shifting the one-on-one appointment to a comfortable group setting.

That group is made up of women who are also pregnant and expecting to deliver at around the same time, and a doctor.

The approach, known as centering pregnancy, still provides moms with the regular testing and ultrasounds they'd expect, with the additional perk of seeing firsthand that many of their concerns and questions are shared by other women in the area.

"The principle of centering, in terms of engaging the patient ... is we're not talking at you," said Dr. Damali Campbell, with University Hospital in Newark and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "It's a group discussion. They are really learning from each other, and studies have shown that they take that information from their peers much better than they do from us."

Campbell said the groups span generations. The same group may include a pregnant female who's 15 and another who's 35.

"We all have stress," she said. "They're relieved to know that they are not alone, they are not the only ones who are afraid."

Centering pregnancy was the topic of an Ask the Expert program on April 11, hosted by First Lady Tammy Murphy, who runs the mom/baby awareness campaign Nurture NJ.

"I met a lot of great people that I still communicate with up to this day," first-time mother Shamera Roberts said during the virtual event. "I loved it. The only problem is that I wish it was longer."

According to Centering Healthcare Institute, there are 17 centering pregnancy sites in New Jersey.

"We had a very poor postpartum return rate before centering, and now our postpartum return rate has increased dramatically," said Debby Katz, program coordinator at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson.

The hospital welcomed the concept in February 2020. Its popularity has grown despite challenges prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're finding such wonderful results and experiences within the centering community," Katz said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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