SALT LAKE CITY — Prenatal care is an important part of keeping both mom and baby healthy during pregnancy, but keeping up on regular appointments can be a hassle, especially for women juggling other kids or a demanding job. One Utah mom said technology is making her pregnancy a little bit easier.
"Should we put it on so your shirt doesn't get messy?" Courtney said leaning over to her 2-year-old baby, Audrey.
She is a busy mother of three, with another baby girl on the way! Courtney said the whole family is excited.
““Audrey, where's mommy's baby?” she asked, as her daughter immediately pointed to her tummy.
Her 7-year-old, Mia, can’t wait to add another girl to the family. “Just because they're so cute and adorable,” she said, with a big grin on her face.
Courtney also home schools her kids, making it a challenge to get to the doctor for her prenatal check-ups. She either had to get a babysitter, or load up her kids in the car.
"And drive 30 minutes and then wait and then see the doctor and drive home and it took up the whole morning,” she explained. Courtney also said her kids aren’t always the quietest which made talking to the doctor difficult.
Courtney was thrilled when her midwife suggested she start prenatal visits in the comfort of her own home. She logs into Intermountain Healthcare's Connect Care app on her iPad and has a 15-minute, virtual visit with her certified nurse midwife, Angela Anderson.
"Hello! How are things going?" Anderson asked through video.
She steps on the scale at home, measures her own blood pressure, and even monitors the baby's heart with Anderson's supervision.
"Great! I can hear it loud and strong!” Anderson told Courtney.
“We want to be certain that they're picking up the baby and that they're not picking up their aorta or anything like that,” Anderson said.
Courtney said the equipment is easy to use. "It's automatic, I put it on and press a button,” she said. "They actually checked out the equipment to me, so it was free to me.”
Courtney and Anderson talk about everything they would in a normal, in-person check-up like how to relieve her discomfort, and the size and health of the growing baby.
Anderson said at-home prenatal care isn’t for everyone though. It’s designed for women who have uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies. "You have to have had at least one prior vaginal birth. You need to not have any other kind of chronic medical issues,” she said.
But in the event that something happens or the midwife detected an irregular heartbeat, Anderson said they would get the mother into the clinic that day.
Even though she doesn’t see her midwife in person as often now, Courtney said her interactions with the staff have still been personable. "They've been really responsive with texts and emails if I've had any issues,” Courtney said.
Some appointments still require an in-person visit. "Those are visits where we're doing lab work or if they need to have an ultrasound,” Anderson said. “We want to be sure that we're measuring the uterus intermittently, at least, to be certain that we're not missing any growth issues or anything else that would need more intervention.”
For Courtney, it's made all the difference. "Oh, it's so worth it to save two hours out of my day dragging my kids around,” she said, especially on snowy winter days. “We actually did our schoolwork this morning and then we did the appointment… and it didn't interrupt our day. It was really nice.”
Anderson said telehealth is also convenient for working women who can't leave their jobs easily.
“They can basically just take a break and go to a private area and check-in to do a 15-minute visit in private,” she suggested. “And not have to drive here, (and) wait in the waiting room.”
Anderson said most insurance companies cover these virtual at-home visits. The clinic requires the patient to have access to an iPad or computer with a camera and microphone capability in order to participate. She also said clients can call their clinic 24-hours a day with any pressing concerns.