FAIRMONT - Life doesn't come to a stop when you're pregnant. Bills still come in; responsibilities continue, making it difficult for some women to take time off from work week after week for routine checkups.
That's why Mayo Clinic Health System is introducing patients to OB Shared Care. Rather than making appointments and traveling to see the obstetrician/gynecology staff who will deliver their infants, expectant mothers in places like St. James are encouraged to continue seeing their local family providers for the ultrasounds and tests that accompany pregnancy.
"Our new OB Shared Care program benefits patients significantly," said Dr. Sophie Dojacques in a news release from Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont. "Many pregnant mothers living in rural areas are required to travel long distances to OB appointments, which results in frequently missed or cancelled appointments - and ultimately less-effective care for the child. With the OB Shared Care program, patients are able to attend these vital appointments in their own communities."
For a routine pregnancy, women see their doctor every four weeks through the first 20 weeks. Then, for weeks 20-30, they'll go in every three weeks. In weeks 30-36, the appointments will increase to every two weeks, until at week 36, when they will see their doctor once a week. By the end of week 37, the baby is considered full term.
With OB Shared Care, most of these appointments will be with a woman's regular family doctor. But at 20 weeks, she will meet with her OB/GYN to make sure the pregnancy is proceeding normally, and then take a tour of the delivery area. Her second appointment with her OB/GYN will be at 35 weeks.
"At that point, we'll discuss delivery options and plans," Dojacques said. "This is particularly important for me, is to find out what they want for their birth plan. This is their birth, not mine. I'm just there to make sure it happens in a healthy, safe fashion."
While OB Shared Care will open up more time for Mayo Clinic Health System's OB/GYNs, Dojacques said that wasn't a consideration.
"These are not new programs," she said. "I've been involved with them elsewhere. Basically it's an integrated health care system. The basis is it makes it convenient for the patient and allows for a lot more continuity in their care."
The alternative, she said, is essentially taking patients away from their family doctors for nine months. With her experience in rural communities around the country, Dojacques has seen programs like OB Shared Care increase compliance with prenatal care and improve the outcome for the patient and the baby.
Of course, women who prefer to see an OB/GYN throughout their pregnancy can do so.
"We're happy to see them as one of our regular patients," Dojacques said.
For more information, contact the labor and delivery department at Mayo Clinic Health System-Fairmont at (507) 238-8100, extension 7338.