Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but for some women, it can also be incredibly stressful. That's why Affinia Healthcare offers a special program for expecting moms. It's designed for groups of women to take control of toxic stress together.

"Basically, we're not by ourselves," said participant Joie Coruesoe, who is 30 weeks along in her pregnancy. "I'm trying not to stress myself out but I think my biggest thing would be going back to work after having the baby. Would I put him in daycare, or my mom, or what? And then I don't have transportation like that. So being on the bus, it's a hassle."

The program's group setting allows her and the others to talk through their concerns. Facilitator and women's health nurse practitioner Salena Cecil says that's important because high stress in pregnancy can be damaging for both mom and her newborn.

"Delivering early, increase in contractions like bleeding, that sort of thing," Cecil said.

Yvonne Buhlinger, Vice President of Development and Community Relations, says around 13 percent of babies born in St. Louis are born pre-term or underweight.

"That is a very high percent," Buhlinger said. "However, with implementation of this program here at Affinia Healthcare, our outcomes are right on point at eight percent."

In addition to providing prenatal check-ups, the program covers a variety of topics. The sessions are also interactive.

"We do vital signs, we check weight, see how patients are feeling," Cecil said. "We talk about even some of those harder topics like postpartum depression. ... whether it's your first time or you've been pregnant before, I think everybody can benefit from some of the things that we talk about."

Affinia Healthcare serves around 900 pregnant women per year. However, only a subset of those patients are able to participate in the Centering Pregnancy Program due to a lack of resources. In the past year, 79 women participated in the program.

"The women that participate have amazing outcomes," Buhlinger said. "However, the resources to support the expansion of this program throughout our organization are not yet there."

Buhlinger says employees want to expand the program by increasing resources available to pregnant women. She says Affinia Healthcare is partnering with St. Louis Integrated Health Network, Saint Louis University, and Washington University to bring more resources to the area. People in the community are also encouraged to make a donation at