During COVID-19, even as states open up, hospitals and medical offices are still taking major precautions against the virus.
And, even after the pandemic is over, many say virtual visits are here to say.
While in-person appointments are necessary for high-risk pregnancies, complications and tests, you can expect them to be cut down in the future.
For these reasons, it’s helpful to have some health monitoring tools at home. You can use these with your doctor during calls or video chat appointments to get the most accurate picture of your progress.
In this post, we’re discussing 6 must-haves for monitoring your pregnancy at home.
COVID-19= Fewer In-Person Appointments
Some of the measures offices are taking to stop the spread of the virus include limiting the number of people inside healthcare buildings. This can help lower the chances of COVID-19 spreading to vulnerable people inside those facilities. It also limits the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) staff need to use.
All of this means fewer in-person appointments and that some non-urgent ones will be done over phone or video chat instead. For example, at Michigan Medicine, they’re typically only seeing pregnant women 5 times before birth:
- Initial prenatal visit
- Anatomy ultrasound
- 28-week check-up
- 36-week check-up
- 39-week check-up
Before COVID-19, many facilities did lab tests on different days. For example, you’d see your doctor for a blood test form and then come back the next week to actually get it done. Now, many offices are getting that completed in one day to reduce contact. In other cases, multiple tests may be done during the same visit.
Even as coronavirus cases decline, experts are predicting that the telehealth trend is here to stay. So, even in the months to come, you can expect more doctor’s chats to happen remotely.
Unless you’ve just received a positive pregnancy test, you probably already know the steps your doctor’s office is taking. In-person appointments are typically reserved for high-risk pregnancies or when tests are needed. When you do go, you can expect to wait outside the office rather than in the waiting room. Most facilities are also restricting visitors, so your partner or support person may not be allowed in with you.
Are In-Person Appointments Necessary?
As we mentioned, some offices have cut appointments down to just five per pregnancy (with exceptions for emergencies and high-risk women). Only seeing your doctor a few times before your baby is born may give you anxiety. Will they catch an issue if it arises? How can you be sure everything is okay?
With COVID-19 making in-person appointments transform into virtual visits, many experts say that the trend should remain. They argue that many of the appointments were unnecessary.
To put this into perspective, the New York Times reported that the American practice of 11 to 14 prenatal visits is actually a guideline from 1930. At the time, people were paying a set fee for care during their entire pregnancy, not per visit.
According to the University of Michigan, even before the pandemic started, research showed that more virtual visits may be the right approach to low-risk pregnancies. During many check-ups, your doctor asks about your progress or symptoms. Rather than doing lab tests, much of it is verbal—which means a lot can safely be done virtually.
If the reduced visits still worries you, consider this: one doctor commented that “most countries in the world have less frequent visits with better outcomes.”
Why Should You Build a DIY Pregnancy Monitoring Kit?
Even with monitoring tools at your fingertips, they aren’t a substitute for professional advice. With that being said, there’s advantages to using these tools in between in-person appointments. And, some offices are encouraging patients to use any equipment they have during virtual visits.
- Less Anxiety. You’re probably having fewer in-person appointments than you would have if it weren’t for COVID-19. Although your doctor is keeping up with your care remotely, it’s understandable to feel added anxiety. You may worry that you’re not getting the same level of care or that your healthcare provider isn’t there to notice important issues. Having tools to monitor your health can give you tangible reassurance that you’re doing okay.
- More Data. During many pregnancy appointments, a lot of the information your doctor needs comes from simple conversation. However, they do typically take some vitals during the routine check-ups, such as your blood pressure or detecting your baby’s heartbeat. Telehealth appointments miss out on this information—unless you have your own tools. Having more data to share with your doctor may help them better guide you.
- Catch Problems Early. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor is likely still monitoring you closely in person. However, this isn’t the case for most women. With time between in-person appointments expanded, it’s possible it could take a little longer to catch problems if they don’t cause immediate symptoms. If your doctor remotely works alongside you to correctly use these tools, he or she can identify problems associated with their results.
- With telehealth on the rise, now is a good time to empower yourself and take charge of your own health. While healthcare professionals have the knowledge, it’s helpful for us to learn a few things too. That’s because it can help us advocate for our own situations. Before COVID-19, we’d likely go into an office and passively sit as a doctor does tests and tells us the results. Now, we have the opportunity to learn more about tests, results and pregnancy.
- Work with Your Doctor. Tacking onto the last point, when we have our own tools, our doctor or midwife can guide us on how to correctly use them. A video chat can be helpful so you can show them how you’re using the tool and they can correct anything necessary.
Pregnancy Home Monitoring Kit Essentials
Your doctor will let you know which appointments need to be in-person. In between those, it’s helpful to have tools you can use to monitor your pregnancy. You can share these results with your healthcare provider during phone or video chat appointments.
Note: Before making your own home monitoring pregnancy kit, we recommend asking your doctor for suggestions. Since health is very individual, he or she may suggest tools helpful for your specific situation.
Here’s some tools to add to your home monitoring kit.
#1 Fetal Doppler/Fetal Heartbeat Monitor
Fetal dopplers are pocket-sized devices that work similar to an ultrasound. You spread ultrasound gel on your belly, glide the probe over and find your baby’s heartbeat. You can hear it through the device and see her fetal heart rate (FTR) displayed on the screen. Since your baby’s heartbeat changes throughout your journey, it’s a helpful tool to have to keep track of her health. Here’s instructions and tips for using a fetal doppler properly.
You can also have your doctor instruct you on a video call to ensure you’re doing it properly. He or she can listen to the heartbeat live to make sure you’ve detected the right sound. Another option is to record the heartbeat if you think you detect any abnormalities. Your midwife or doctor can play it back and confirm or deny your concern. Many mothers find it a reassuring experience to hear their baby’s heartbeat, especially if they’ve had prior miscarriages. It’s also a good bonding experience for the entire family since it introduces them to the baby before birth.
#2 Blood Pressure Monitor
Since many pregnancy complications are associated with high blood pressure, checking it from time to time is a good idea. For example, high blood pressure is tied to preeclampsia, the need to induce labor, preterm delivery, low birth weight, etc. You can check to ensure your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80) and report any abnormalities to your doctor. Another option is to use the cuff during your virtual visits, just like you would during a regular appointment.
You can get a blood pressure monitor for as low as $27.99 on Amazon.
#3 Heart Rate Monitor
While the fetal doppler measures your baby’s heartbeat, it can be helpful to monitor your own too. These days, you may be spending more time at home, which means more pent up energy. A good way to release that is through exercise. Whether it’s running, dancing or following an at-home workout, physical activity is recommended during most pregnancies.
However, one concern some mothers have is getting their heart rate too high and harming the baby. Years ago, experts suggested to keep it below 140 beats per minute. That advice has since changed and there’s no longer any specific heartbeat limits during pregnancy. If you’re an avid fitness buff, you may still worry that your heart rate is too high. In these cases, it can be helpful to use a heart rate monitor. You can record your measures during exercise and share the results with your healthcare provider. Since they know your fitness level and specific health risks, they can help you assess whether it’s a safe heart rate.
Get the Finger Pulse for $39.95
#4 Video Call App
Your kit should also include the app you use for virtual visits. Some offices use specialized apps for their video calls while others use general apps, such as Skype or FaceTime. Talk to your healthcare provider or midwife to figure out which technology you need to keep in touch between appointments.
#5 Baby Bump Pregnancy Tracker
Believe it or not, there’s actually some pregnancy health monitoring you can do that doesn’t involve any tools. However, it will involve recording information—and that’s why tracker apps are helpful. The Baby Bump app provides a kick counter and contraction timer and recorder.
Get the Baby Bump Pregnancy Tracker App.
Whether you’re monitoring yourself for COVID-19 or infections in general, it’s a good idea to have a thermometer handy when you’re not feeling well. You can report the results to your doctor or midwife during a visit and they can recommend any next steps. In the age of no-contact, a contactless thermometer is best because you can use it among the family without concern.
P.S. It’s likely the trend toward telehealth will continue even past COVID-19. With that, you’ll still attend the necessary appointments, but you can expect more virtual visits even after the baby arrives. To prepare for that, you may also want to think about which Baby Health Monitoring items to add to your kit.
See More Baby Items to Add to Your Home Monitoring Kit!