JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The San Antonio Market offers a group obstetric model for pregnant women at Brooke Army Medical Center.
Once a woman finds out she is pregnant, she has the option to choose traditional individual prenatal care or join a pregnancy group for prenatal care.
The group, led by a nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner, consists of up to 12 expectant mothers who are around the same gestational period in their pregnancy. If a patient chooses the group OB option, they receive a welcome letter with all the scheduled dates for the group sessions. Each session is a two-hour appointment.
The first 30 minutes of the appointment is devoted to tummy time, which is done individually behind a screen for privacy. The women are able to take their own vitals, weight and blood pressure.
“This empowers women to take control of their pregnancy,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Veronica Gonzalez, chair, Department of Gynecologic Surgery and Obstetrics.
The remainder of the session is devoted to talking about educational topics, exercise and sharing information within the group. The group dynamic is relaxed. The women sit in a circle in oversized rocking chairs and usually bring snacks to share.
“The group is a very comfortable atmosphere,” said Christy Jackson, certified nurse-midwife. “It’s not a lecture, it’s like being in a coffee shop with your girlfriends.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, group prenatal care models are designed to improve patient education and include opportunities for social support while maintaining the risk screening and physical assessment of individual prenatal care.
“I think it’s one of the best methodologies for prenatal care,” Jackson said. “We have statistical proof that there are better outcomes for women who center including a 33 percent reduction in preterm birth, a significant reduction in low birth weight, fewer cesarean deliveries and increased breastfeeding rates.”
Rachel Imman is 38 weeks along in her pregnancy with her first child.
“I have enjoyed the pregnancy group, especially because we are military,” Imman said. “I didn’t have as many friends because of COVID. It’s nice to have a bunch of ladies who are in the same boat that I am and we can actually talk to each other, ask questions and see what’s going on with each other. It makes me feel better. I don’t feel as isolated.”
First-time mom Jessica Garrett agrees.
“I have really loved to be able to talk to other moms, especially because there are second-time and third-time moms in the group,” Garrett said. “Getting advice from people who have had kids and been through it has been really helpful.”
Both Jackson and Gonzalez agree that group prenatal care is especially beneficial for the military population.
“I’ve really been able to see how many military women enjoy the group model because their spouses may be deployed and they are away from their support system,” Jackson said. “This group automatically becomes a stable relationship for them. They are able to create bonds and have someone to go through their pregnancy journey with. They also develop a close provider-patient relationship.”
“Another benefit to having group OB care in a military location is that all of their care is here,” Gonzalez said. “So, even if they have a complication, we can still see them in between their regular group appointments.”
Many of the pregnancy group members maintain contact outside the group via texting and social media.
“It’s like an instant support group for families who don’t have their families nearby,” Gonzalez said.