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Supporting Postpartum Mothers Through Telehealth

By Carolina Rayzel

While the use of telehealth is commonly associated with providing support and symptom management to patients with chronic conditions, many of the same benefits of vitals monitoring, symptom evaluation, and on-call support can be applied to the postpartum population.

 

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Postpartum Depression

With up to 1 in 7 women experiencing postpartum depression after their child’s birth[1], the availability of telehealth as a tool to monitor symptoms and provide counseling may extend access to support for mothers. Telehealth can ease the burden of having to travel to see a specialist and allow for screening in the weeks and months after birth to prevent the exacerbation of symptoms.

 

Postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms can be evaluated through clinical questionnaires such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. This 10-item questionnaire lends itself well to HRS PatientConnect’s symptom survey feature, including automatic scoring that is sent back to the clinician in real-time to evaluate. With the ability for organizations to customize survey questions and educational content, telehealth is an effective way to provide resources to postpartum mothers in an accessible and non-intrusive way.

 

New mothers suffering from PPD can also find benefit through the communication features of a telehealth platform. Two-way videoconferencing can be leveraged to set up regular check in visits with a nurse, physician, or therapist. Furthermore, with the ability to initiate a voice call or text message to her clinician in just a couple of clicks, new mothers can have greater peace of mind by knowing they can easily get in touch with someone with any questions or concerns that come up.

 

Lactation Consulting

Along with the major life changes that new mothers must contend with after giving birth, breastfeeding is an additional challenge that can be a cause of frustration for many women. One factor that contributes to not initiating or continuing to breastfeed is lack of access to professional breastfeeding support[2]. While lactation consultants can be found in hospitals and clinics, these important professionals’ reach can be extended by using telehealth, without requiring mothers to travel to access their support.

 

By leveraging secure and encrypted telehealth videoconferencing, a mother can connect with a lactation consultant remotely. With face-to-face interaction the consultant can offer information on placement and latching techniques and coach the mother in real time. Furthermore, a daily or weekly survey can allow the mother to report information such as pain or other issues with breastfeeding, as well as to monitor milk supply.

 

Women who encounter problems with breastfeeding are less likely to continue, unless they can connect with a professional, and previous experiences have a big impact on their future decision to breastfeed[3]. Therefore, identifying problems in the first few weeks after childbirth are key for connecting mothers to lactation professionals to ensure a comfortable and successful experience.

 

General Well-Being

Telehealth is a great platform for postpartum mothers to track their activity, diet, medication, and to monitor vitals and physical symptoms. With the ability to monitor daily activity and biometrics such as weight and blood pressure, new mothers can track changes over time and receive follow up from their clinician if there are any concerns.

 

Mothers who experienced gestational diabetes can also use a Bluetooth glucometer or her own glucometer to monitor blood glucose levels in the months after birth. With customizable daily symptom questions, women can also report back to their clinician on symptoms such as constipation, discharge, pain, and mood. Women who delivered via cesarean section can use the wound imaging feature to send photos of their incision to their provider if there are any concerns of infection or other complications.

 

Videoconferencing can also be leveraged by various members of the care team to provide consultations and support to the postpartum mother on topics covering a wide range of health and wellness. As maintaining a healthy diet and regular activity are important for postpartum mothers, the ability to consult with a dietitian can aid women in ensuring they are following recommended guidelines.

 

Regular wellness check-ins with the patient’s nurse or primary care provider allow her to receive clinical consultation without having to travel and can also facilitate connecting her with other specialists such as physical therapists or mental health counselors when needed. The ability for multiple care team members to conduct video visits with the patient allows for a holistic and team-based approach to the patient’s care.

 

Summary

Ultimately, the reach of telehealth for postpartum populations can allow healthcare organizations to provide more personalized and convenient care. The ability to facilitate more frequent checkups, remote monitoring of vitals, and communication between the mother and her clinical team can have a strong impact on healthcare outcomes and providing a dedicated support system for a new mother. The individualized support that is facilitated by a telehealth program can extend the reach of providers, prevent the worsening of symptoms or concerns, and provide peace of mind to mothers in a challenging yet exciting time of their lives.

 

 

[1] American Psychological Association, “What is postpartum depression & anxiety.” http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.aspx

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/us-breastfeeding-rates.html

[3] Barriers to Breastfeeding in the United States. NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52688/

Tags: telehealth, telemedicine, text messaging, communication, postpartum, mental health

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