By Nicole Fuge, MD® Managing Editor
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live (at least for right now) and it could even change the way expectant mothers get their antenatal care. Yup, that’s right. A trial into providing antenatal care to woman at home has showed the level of care is just as good as a face-to-face consult… so you don’t even need to get out of your PJs for an appointment. We’re totally on board.
The trial was run by the peeps at Monash University and Monash Health, who delivered an integrated antenatal care program via telehealth (which has become a big part of healthcare over the last 18 months). And they found that it actually reduced face-to-face consultations by 50 per cent without affecting the detection and management of common pregnancy complications, including pre-eclampsia, foetal growth restriction, and gestational diabetes.
“It was clear that antenatal care delivery had to be adapted to protect pregnant women and staff from unnecessary exposure to the virus,” Dr Kirsten Palmer from the Monash University School of Clinical Sciences and Monash Health says. “We recognised that a key limitation of telehealth was the inability to do physical examinations, which are essential in antenatal care, but we were able to implement low-cost measures to support these assessments in the home.”
So how was it done?
Blood pressure was either self-checked on automated blood pressure monitors, with local health providers, or at the time of hospital ultrasound assessments. They were able to monitor foetal growth with self-measured symphyseal-fundal heights from 24 weeks gestation plotted on provided foetal growth charts, and ultrasound assessment of foetal growth was done in hospital according to national clinical care recommendations.
Program Director of the Women’s and Newborn Program and Director of Obstetric Services at Monash Health Associate Professor Ryan Hodges says although telehealth was implemented during a global health crisis, this program could absolutely benefit the future delivery of antenatal care and minimise risk in a future epidemic.
“We are hoping to continue it as part of our antenatal care program as it supports women to receive more personalised care with the same excellent outcomes,” he says.