DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – What if you could cut the number of preterm births by more than half just by changing the type of care pregnant moms get? One North Texas hospital system is doing just that by using a unique program called Centering.

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“Centering is a program where you incorporate traditional prenatal care with all of the classes that a pregnant woman can take,” explained midwife Debra Knipe.

Knipe helps run a centering program at Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas. The women here don’t just drop in for a quick 15-minute appointment with their care providers. Instead, they meet as a group, throughout the length of their pregnancy. Sessions are long, typically two hours. But during that time, all of their medical care is administered and different pregnancy topics are discussed. During the appointment the group can ask Knipe and each other questions, as well as commiserate.

Roshelle Johnson was in the program this Fall. She was expecting her second child, a boy. Early on in her pregnancy, she was having fainting spells. That’s when medical care providers guided her toward the centering program.

As it turned out the program helped Johnson learn about eating and staying hydrated. All the information helped her manage her pregnancy better. She said she also appreciated the company. “No question was too far out and a lot of the questions get answered in class. You don’t feel alone because you have a group of women who say ‘I have that same exact question.’”

But centering doesn’t just make moms feel better; it has also had real results on the health of babies born at Methodist Dallas and Methodist Charlton.

“Depending on the zip code where our patients live, the preterm birth rate could be 13- to 23-percent, so an average 18-percent or one in five babies born prematurely,” explained Greg Davidson, the clinic administrator at Methodist Dallas.

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Since the Methodist Health System started using centering, premature births have dropped. Davidson said the decrease has been between five and six-percent. He says it’s all about answering questions and making moms feel comfortable enough to ask.

After her experience, Johnson said she wouldn’t have done it any other way. She gave birth naturally to a healthy full-term baby boy.  “I am over the moon. He is everything I could just dream and hope for.”

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