The COVID-19 crisis may have changed how you thought your pregnancy would go, but the best thing you can do during this uncertain time is to take care of yourself. Early and timely access to prenatal care is key to ensuring the best birth experience for you and your baby.
Should you still have prenatal checkups if everything is fine?
Yes. It’s important that you go to all of your prenatal or postpartum checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Your health care provider may want to meet less often with you or allow more time between in-person visits. You also may talk with your provider over the phone or through an online video call. This is called telemedicine or telehealth. It’s a good way for you to get the care you need while reducing your risk of being exposed to the virus. Research shows that telehealth care is just as good as in-person care. It also can be more convenient if you don’t have transportation to your provider’s office or must travel a long distance for care.
Are telehealth visits necessary?
Prenatal care is the medical care you get during pregnancy. At each prenatal care visit, your health care provider checks on you and your growing baby. Traditional prenatal care can include more than 14 in-person appointments during your pregnancy. But only some checkups truly require in-person care. Many times, your provider just wants to check in with you to answer any questions you may have or monitor you and your baby’s overall health and wellbeing. Other times, an in-person visit is required to have ultrasounds, vaccinations, and other prenatal tests that can’t be done from your home.
Gestational diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and preeclampsia during pregnancy can cause health problems for you or your baby. And, with the COVID-19 pandemic, something as simple as going to the hospital to get a blood test or have your blood pressure taken comes with a lot of risks and added stress. Your provider may be able to monitor your vital signs, like your blood pressure or blood sugar, while you’re at home.
If you have a visit scheduled, your provider’s office may call you ahead of time. They may tell you about telemedicine or make sure you don’t have the symptoms of COVID-19 if you are going into their office. You also can call them before your visit if you don’t hear from them to find out what you should do.
Whether your provider wants to meet with you in person or virtually will depend on:
- Your health, specifically if you’re having any urgent issues or symptoms
- How much the virus is spreading in your community
- Your access to the internet and a computer or a phone
- Whether your health care team is set up for telemedicine
- The laws in your state
What can you expect during a prenatal telehealth visit?
Before your telehealth visit, your provider will explain what you will need for the visit. This may include a phone, internet access, a video app (such as FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom), and/or a computer. Your provider will give you directions for anything they ask you to do. If you need more help, be sure to let them know.
During the visit, your provider may:
- Ask how you are feeling and about any changes since your last call or visit
- Ask you to send them a photo or ask you to take your temperature or weight at home
- Review any prescription medications that you are on and if you need any refills
- Ask about how you are coping, if you are feeling sad or depressed, or if you’re having any issues at home
- Give you instructions on how to monitor your blood pressure, weight, fetal heart rate, and fundal height at home and how to get the tools you need to do it
- Provide you with a referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, genetic counselor, services to help quit smoking, or mental health specialist
What can you expect during a postpartum telehealth visit?
A postpartum checkup is a medical checkup you get after having a baby to make sure you’re recovering well from labor and birth. Postpartum care is important because new moms are at risk of serious and sometimes life-threatening health complications in the days and weeks after giving birth. Too many new moms have or even die from health problems that may be prevented by getting postpartum care.
During your postpartum telehealth visit, your provider will ask you many of the same questions above. During the visit, your provider also may ask:
- How the baby is sleeping, feeding, and interacting
- If you are having any issues breastfeeding
- If you are experiencing postpartum depression
- If you need birth control to keep you from getting pregnant again
- About any chronic conditions you or your baby may have
- Provide you with a referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, genetic counselor, lactation consultant, or mental health specialist
When should you see your provider in person?
Your provider may choose to see you in person if you have an urgent issue, such as a fever, vaginal infection, or severe vaginal bleeding. Call your provider if you have any symptoms that bother you. Call 911 or go to the hospital if you are having an emergency.
It’s important to keep in contact with your provider throughout your pregnancy and the weeks after giving birth to your baby, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
March of Dimes is partnering with BabyLiveAdvice, an organization that supports parents throughout their journey from preconception to early childhood. They offer virtual access to a national network of nurses, midwives, lactation consultants, nutritionists, mental health professionals and more. If you use BabyLiveAdvice between now and September 30, please take our survey. It will help us understand more about how telehealth services are useful to you. To learn more visit BabyLiveAdvice.com/March-of-Dimes .
Last updated July 21, 2020