‘Support Group’ Approach is International Best Practice

Laura DeBacco Malysza, PA-C and Dr. Meaghan Aalto in the P3 “CenteringPregnancy” Center.

If you’re an expecting mom in Western New York, thanks to the innovative efforts of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, you now have the option of accessing an international best practice for your maternity care called CenteringPregnancy.

Sheila Kee (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer) has really been visionary in bringing Centering to Niagara Falls Memorial,” explained Sarah Obot, Program Coordinator for the P3 Center for Teens, Moms & Kids.

(P3 offers free services to women to improve their health and the health of their newborns and children, including serving as the organizing office for the NFMMC CenteringPregnancy group healthcare model.)

“Sheila is an innovator and is able to see how the healthcare system is changing. With her leadership and support, we were successful in obtaining a Maternal and Infant Community Health Collaborative grant from the New York State Department of Health,” Sarah continued. “This grant, and Millennium’s DSRIP support, have enabled us to implement this new model of care.”


Sheila Kee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, photo at left; Sarah Obot, Program Coordinator for the P3 Center for Teens, Moms & Kids and Dr. Aalto, photo at right.


In CenteringPregnancy — an alternative to traditional one-on-one doctor/patient care —   pregnant women with similar due dates are joined together in a group with their healthcare providers. They receive all the components of prenatal care, including health assessment, interactive learning and community building; in addition to participating in facilitated discussion and learning sessions focused on pregnancy, birth and newborn care, to name just a few of the topics covered.

The NFMMC CenteringPregnancy is supported by Dr. Meaghan Aalto, who primarily sees patients in the OB/GYN Center at Niagara Falls Memorial; and Laura DeBacco Malysza, PA-C. Sarah Obot provides overall program scheduling and management.

The NFMMC Centering Team strives to enroll groups of six to eight expecting moms with similar due dates into a best practice schedule of 10 prenatal visits, with each visit being from 90 minutes to two hours long – giving the women 10x more time with their healthcare providers.

(NFMMC launched its first Centering group in March of 2017 after a year of extensive planning, training and educational sessions for OBGYN staff. Today, three groups are active with due dates of late August; September/October; and November, respectively)

“The moms meet once a month at first, and later in their pregnancy, every other week until their delivery date. During these sessions, they learn to take their own vitals including weight and blood pressure and record their own health data,” explained Sarah. “As they finish, they immediately get private time with their doctor for a belly check. There’s never any waiting.

“Then once the health assessments are complete, we ‘circle-up” with the moms and engage them in facilitative discussions and interactive activities designed to address health topics that are important and timely to everyone,” she continued.


Centering materials, according to Sarah, also help the moms and team ensure that everything from nutrition, common discomforts, and stress management to labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and infant care are covered by the group.

“The amount of education the moms receive as a group is so much more than in a traditional doctor/patient visit,” said Sarah. “They benefit from their peers, form friendships and get more support.” And not to be left out, dads to be (or other support individuals) are also welcome to attend and participate. “They bring great perspective to the discussions,” she added.


Sarah further illustrated the power of the group by sharing a success story of a how a second-time mother-to-be volunteered to her “centering friends” that because she had smoked during her first pregnancy, her baby was born early and with a low birth weight. “That testimony really reached the other women,” said Sarah.

Ultimately, the success of the CenteringPregnancy approach is supported by proven results including studies in sample populations that show 96% of women surveyed prefer receiving their prenatal care in Centering; and 33% are less likely to have a preterm baby. Centering care has also been shown to increase breastfeeding rates and duration of breastfeeding; and to result in patient and provider satisfaction that are higher than traditional care.

“With Centering, you join a group that really becomes your family,” Sarah concluded. “You have your fellow moms to be that can provide help and support like a mother or sister; and you have our team members from our P3 and OBGYN Centers. We’re all working together to do everything we can to ensure a happy and healthy pregnancy for both mom and our new born babies.”


“While the Centering best practice has been implemented across the United States and internationally, Niagara Falls Memorial is the first in Niagara County to offer this innovative approach to prenatal care, and only the second CenteringPregnancy program to be up and running in Western New York’s eight counties,” explained Sandy McDougal, Project Manager for Millennium Collaborative Care.

(According to Sarah Obot, Sisters of Charity Hospital, the oldest hospital in Buffalo, NY and part of Catholic Health, began the area’s first CenteringPregnancy five years ago. Sister’s has also achieved certification, while NFMMC will be eligible to apply for certification in 2018. )

CenteringPregnancy was piloted in the early 1990s by a nurse midwife, Sharon Schindler Rising, who initiated centering groups in a hospital clinic, a community health center and a private office in Waterbury, Conn.

Now, per the Boston-based Centering Healthcare Institute, a non-profit organization with over two decades of experience as the go-to resource for group care, the Institute has developed and sustained the Centering model in more than 470 practice sites in the United States. and in some of the largest health systems in the world.  For information on Niagara Falls Memorial’s CenteringPregnancy program or referrals, call (716) 278-4423 or email Program Coordinator Sarah Obot.




Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ECMC logo

The Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC) is the parent organization of Millennium Collaborative Care

Millennium Collaborative Care

1461 Kensington Ave
Buffalo, NY, 14215

t:  716-898-5389

© Millennium Collaborative Care.