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The pandemic has changed many aspects of life. One transformation, though, has been a bit surprising: the widened scope of routine pregnancy care.
The reduction of in-person visits throughout the past year has made virtual appointments crucial in prenatal care. Today, even with lifted restrictions and life moving back toward “normal,” professional, prenatal care seems destined to continue taking hold in the home. Pregnant women can now choose care aligned with their preferences and customized to meet their needs.
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“During the pandemic, people have become more accustomed to the flexibility of telehealth appointments and not having to come to the doctor’s office every time,” explains Dr. Amanda Rohn, FACOG, an obstetrician and gynecologist at VHC Physician Group-OB/GYN.
This presents an ideal opportunity for moms and dads-to-be who would normally struggle to fit these visits into their calendar. On average, a woman will attend between eight and 15 prenatal visits throughout her pregnancy, spending around 40 hours total at these appointments. Having the opportunity to attend many of these visits virtually is both efficient and convenient.
Virtual visits and self-monitoring
Instead of coming to the office for all prenatal care appointments, some visits—called continuing care visits—are conducted with the same registered nurse throughout the pregnancy via secured video. The nurse asks about changes in health, reviews the care plan, and provides education on pregnancy-related topics such as nutrition, exercise, and postpartum healing. The information discussed throughout the visit is tailored to meet the specific needs or concerns of each patient.
Some hospitals provide pregnant women with home-monitoring equipment to take their own blood pressure and measure the baby’s heart rate. This allows for accurate readings that couldn’t otherwise be done remotely. The assigned nurse then reviews the data sent by the patient. If the numbers are higher or lower than normal, the patient may need to come in for an in-person appointment.
“It’s great to have patients directly involved in tracking their prenatal health,” says Dr. Rohn. “They get to know their body and take a sense of ownership in their pregnancy by helping manage their health.”
How virtual care visits work
With its new OB Connect program, Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) is one medical facility looking to make the most of today’s remote prenatal technology. OB Connect combines in-office appointments with virtual continuing care visits by a registered nurse. VHC OB Connect is based on Mayo Clinic’s Nest program, which has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and decrease prenatal stress.
The Virginia Hospital Center OB Connect program provides patients with home equipment, such as a fetal Doppler to check the baby’s heart rate and an electronic arm cuff to measure the patient’s blood pressure. These measurements—vital to ensuring the health of mom and baby—are then reported to the nurse during the virtual visits.
Benefits of continuing virtual care appointments include:
- Saving time and money. Virtual appointments mean not having to take time off work for in-person appointments, spending time in waiting rooms, finding childcare, or paying for gas, parking, or transportation.
- Convenience. The appointment can be done from home, the office, or wherever the patient is. The setting doesn’t matter as long as the patient has access to an electronic device and a stable internet connection.
- Family involvement. Not only can mom’s partner be present at virtual visits, but so can extended family, such as grandparents. Attending virtual visits means that mom gets to spend more time at home with family, surrounded by a good support system.
- Comfort. There’s nothing like the comfort of your own home. Attending appointments remotely means moms get more time for themselves to rest or do whatever needs to get done.
Telehealth still can’t substitute for all in-person appointments
While many have grown to enjoy virtual pregnancy appointments, telehealth does not substitute for all in-person visits.
Also keep in mind that virtual prenatal appointments are usually recommended for low-risk pregnancies. Your healthcare provider determines when telehealth visits are medically appropriate for you.
If you’re pregnant and interested in choosing telehealth with trusted experts to guide you, visit Virginia Hospital Center’s OB Connect program for easy and straightforward navigation in this life-changing journey.