Centering on Maternal Health Outcomes at St. Joseph’s Health

Dr. Claudia Herreros, OBGYN, leads a discussion on self-care during a CenteringPregnancy session.

In 2020, St. Joseph’s Health implemented the CenteringPregnancy® model of obstetrics in their DePaul Ambulatory Center in Paterson.  Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, MA, BSN, Partnership President and CEO, and Sarah Muller-Robbins, Director of Education, had the opportunity to visit a centering group and discuss this innovative program.

CenteringPregnancy®, created by the Centering Healthcare Institute, is designed to improve health outcomes for pregnant women through connection with other expectant mothers. Expectant mothers with similar due dates receive prenatal care in a group setting leading up to childbirth.

St. Joseph’s Health implemented Centering in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak.  This has led to smaller group sizes because of the number of people the room could safely hold, ensuring appropriate social distancing.

The CenteringPregnancy group at St. Joseph’s Health.

To date, 92 patients have completed the program. The Cesarean Section Rate in the Centering patients is 17%, as opposed to the 34.1% Nulliparous, Term, Singleton, Vertex (NTSV) hospital rate. The Breastfeeding rate at discharge from the hospital is 91% within the program participants and the return rate for postpartum visits have improved dramatically. There are 12 ongoing groups, 6 English and 6 Spanish, with 2 new groups starting every month.

Jennifer Patuto, CNM, shared her perspective on the group, “The holistic approach of this model is unique. The patients receive the necessary care, but they also benefit from the strong connections they make with one another and the educational discussions. When we look at the data, the improved health outcomes are significant and make the program worthwhile.”

Jennifer Patuto, Nurse Midwife, discussing the benefits of CenteringPregnancy with Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty.

Virginia Krostek, RN, readily joined this team at the hospital.  When compared to traditional obstetrical care, she noted the uniqueness of CenteringPregnancy. “I love getting to know the patients.  Over the weeks and months, you have time to learn more about the moms and their needs. They reveal more health concerns to the group that they may not have otherwise shared with their physician directly.”

These group appointments feature facilitated discussions on relevant topics, including nutrition, pregnancy health, infant care, and relationships. The mothers-to-be were experiencing a self-care day where they discussed ways to remain comfortable during pregnancy and be in tune with their bodies and featured meditation.

CenteringPregnancy® fosters a sense of community among the mothers.  As one mother shared, “I like the support I receive, not only from the doctors and nurses, but from the other mothers.  We are all connected.”

Sarah Muller-Robbins and Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty from the Partnership, pose with the St. Joseph’s Health team: Virginia Krostek, RN; Carla Rizzo, PhD; Pamela Schaefer, RN, Director of Nursing; Dr. Claudia Herreros, OBGYN; and Nancy Ramos, Certified Medical Assistant.

When labor approaches, the mothers give birth at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson.  After delivery, the mothers arrive on the newly renovated Mother Baby Unit, which consists of all private rooms. The entire unit exhibits peace and calmness while promoting family bonding.

The New Jersey Department of Health – with funding from The Burke Foundation, the Nicholson Foundation, The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, and other generous supporters – is promoting CenteringPregnancy® to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity statewide.  Through their Healthy Women Healthy Families program, CenteringPregnancy® is currently available in northern New Jersey at St. Joseph’s Health in Paterson and Alliance Community Healthcare in Jersey City with more sites to open in 2022.  The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey provides programmatic support for this critical initiative.

To learn more about CenteringPregnancy®, visit

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