Before the pandemic, telemedicine was something that wasn’t used that often in the American healthcare system. All that changed in March 2020, however, when clinics everywhere were left figuring out how to deliver care safely to their patients.
Pregnancy was one such area where telemedicine had to be implemented quickly – prenatal visits were not something that could just be rescheduled in a few months when COVID got better! Many offices adapted quickly, and it is likely that even when the pandemic comes to a close, some amount of telehealth will be here to stay. Here’s how you can navigate it and understand how to make it work for you.
Understand what isn’t appropriate for a virtual visit.
While it may seem easier to connect with your doctor or midwife from your couch, not everything is best served this way. Most acute complaints like contractions, bleeding, decreased fetal movement, or concerns that your bag of water broke aren’t going to be able to be fully evaluated via a screen. In these instances, it is best to be seen in person.
Know that sometimes what starts virtual may not end that way.
A routine prenatal check-up may start off as a scheduled telehealth appointment, but if something concerning comes up or your provider thinks you need more evaluation, they may ask you to come in that same day or to Labor and Delivery. Please understand they are doing this out of concern for you and your baby and want what is best for you!
Prepare your technology.
If you know you are going to have a telemedicine visit, try to optimize it from a tech standpoint. Be ready to sign on a few minutes early in case a glitch arises. Use the web browser your clinic recommends for their interface, and try to be in a quiet space with good lighting. However, don’t hesitate to go out to your car or somewhere that may seem suboptimal if it means you have privacy and some quiet. If you get disconnected or have trouble, try not to get frustrated! We are all used to this – your clinic will be understanding.
Have tools to monitor yourself at home.
Your provider may ask that you measure your blood pressure at home if you aren’t coming into the office for a visit. One way to know your cuff is accurate is to bring it with you to an appointment so they can test it and make sure you are using it correctly. You may also be asked to track your weight and/or your baby’s heart rate. If so, ask your provider if they have a fetal doppler they recommend.
Know that you are in good hands.
A recent survey showed that 95% of patients and obstetric providers were fans of telehealth for prenatal care during the pandemic, both in terms of satisfaction and perceived safety. While this was one small survey, it speaks to the ability to provide care in a different way that will likely outlast the pandemic.
It’s OK to want to be seen in person.
Not everyone loves telehealth visits, and that is understandable. If you prefer to have all your visits in person, let your team know. Short of office closures or worsening COVID surges, this will probably be able to be accommodated.
- Telemedicine in prenatal care is likely here to stay.
- Not all concerns are best managed this way.
- Let your provider know if you prefer to be seen in person.