Prenatal Care In The Wake Of COVID-19

Being pregnant for the first time is a joyous and often uncertain time for new moms. For 42-year-old Astoria resident Rosaleen Fitzpatrick, those mixed feelings were only amplified by becoming pregnant for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic with twins. 

Fitzpatrick, who is due in October, is thrilled to bring her two children into the world, but navigating prenatal care during a public health crisis can be unnerving. 

The process is especially complex for Fitzpatrick, who because of her age and the fact that she is expecting twins, she is considered high-risk. Her treatment plan is under the care of the maternal-fetal medicine team at NYU Winthrop. Fitzpatrick arrives to each appointment alone, as the pandemic forced her husband to sit on the sidelines. She is greeted by a temperature check and screening questions by staff wearing proper PPE. Social distancing measures are in place and plexiglass shields barricade the reception desk. But instead of feeling overwhelmed and intimidated, Fitzpatrick describes the in-person visits as a “calm” experience.  

In light of the virus, NYU Langone has created more flexible prenatal care options by using video or telemedicine to assist with OB visits and has put strict safety procedures in place for patients who need to come into the office and for delivery in the hospital. The unit, which is now fully reopened to the public, has also incorporated innovative technology to serve patients in their homes. 

Real-time, remote blood pressure and glucose monitoring is being rolled out across NYU Langone Health, starting with NYU Winthrop Hospital. Plans to implement remote monitoring were already underway, but COVID-19 presented the opportunity to quickly ramp up plans for expectant mothers and their babies.

Dr. Martin Chavez, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at NYU Winthrop Hospital.

This technology now allows for more accurate blood pressure and glucose readings to be transmitted to doctors via Bluetooth. Monitoring for blood pressure is especially important during pregnancy to detect potential complications like preeclampsia, which is closely monitored during the third trimester. If doctors note any potential issues with these readings, they will discuss it with patients and make an in-office appointment if necessary.

“The technology is really straight forward and has enhanced our ability to take care of our patients who don’t necessarily need to come into the office,” said Dr. Martin Chavez, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “The Bluetooth system uplinks the information securely to our patient’s chart.”

Fitzpatrick, visits her doctor’s office once a month and in between, she monitors her blood pressure remotely via Bluetooth connectivity into EPIC to detect any potential complications. Thus far, she has had a healthy pregnancy but feels secure knowing her care team is monitoring her closely—both in the office and from the comfort of her own home.

“We couldn’t tell every pregnant woman not to come in,” Chavez said. “Pregnancy is a unique state in that we are treating two patients in one. We made adaptions to our care to keep patients safe by minimizing the number of physical visits by balancing it out with virtual visits.” 

Chavez said patients are welcoming the Bluetooth testing, and after a short learning curve, are able and willing to use the technology comfortably. 

Fitzpatrick, who got her blood pressure monitoring device on Amazon, said the technology was easy to learn. “It takes a little getting used to in terms of setting it up, but it is really simple,” she said. “You just put the cuff on your arm, it tests your blood pressure, then I sync it and it gets sent directly to the doctor. It is a nice reassurance knowing that this option is available.” 

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Cyndi Zaweski
Cyndi Zaweski is the editor of Anton Media Group's special sections.

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