Young mothers and infants might get significant health benefits from group prenatal care, a new study indicates.
Group prenatal care includes all the same components as individual care. But it provides additional time for education and skill building, plus the opportunity to talk with other pregnant women and learn from their experience, according to the researchers.
“Few clinical interventions have had an impact on birth outcomes,” lead author Jeannette Ickovics, of the Yale University School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., said in a university news release.
“Group prenatal care is related to improved health outcomes for mothers and babies, without adding risk,” she said. “If scaled nationally, group prenatal care could lead to significant improvements in birth outcomes, health disparities, and health care costs.”
The study, however, only found an association between better birth results and group prenatal care. It did not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
For the study, published online Dec. 21 in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers compared outcomes among pregnant teens and women at 14 health centers in New York City who received either group prenatal care or traditional individual care.
Participants were aged 14 to 21 and lived in poor areas, but had no other known pregnancy health risks. The groups included eight to 12 women.
Compared to those who received individual care, women in group prenatal care were 33 percent less likely to have infants who were small for gestational age, the study found. They also had a lower risk of preterm delivery or low birthweight baby, and their infants spent less time in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The researchers also found that women in group prenatal care were more likely to wait an appropriate time before becoming pregnant again, reducing the risk that their next baby will be born prematurely.
Also, the more group prenatal care sessions pregnant women attended, the lower the risk of birth complications, the study authors determined.
Further research is needed to pinpoint why group prenatal care was associated with better outcomes for mothers and their babies, the researchers said.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about prenatal care.