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A mom-to-be’s experience with unique drive-through prenatal clinic

Kirsti Clifford and her husband were overjoyed to find out they were expecting their second child, a girl, due in June.

“I was so excited to give our daughter a sister and was really looking forward to my pregnancy and delivery because this time, I knew what to expect and felt more confident,” said Kirsti.

As she neared her third trimester, something she never could have expected, was that she’d be pregnant during a global pandemic.

“Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and challenging times in a woman’s life – and being pregnant during a pandemic is something I could have never anticipated and definitely heightened my level of anxiety,” said Kirsti. “There are so many unknowns, so I’m trying to be very careful by limiting my exposure and practicing social distancing to protect myself and my unborn baby.”

In an effort to reduce potential patient, health care professional and staff exposure to COVID-19, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women rapidly developed a drive-through prenatal care model in which pregnant women remain in their cars while being assessed by their health care providers.

“Patients using the drive-through clinic feel reassured that they can actually see a health care provider and hear their baby’s heartbeat without having to come into our facility and risk being exposed to the virus,” said Dr. Mark Turrentine, OB/GYN at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. “Our providers like it as well. They enjoy being able to provide patients with an option that might better suit their needs during these unprecedented times.”

Drive-through prenatal visits include key elements that cannot be performed via telehealth encounters, such as blood pressure measurements for evaluation for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, fetal heart rate assessment and selected ultrasound-based measurements or observations, as well as face-to-face patient–health care professional interaction, thereby reducing patient anxiety resulting from the reduction in the number of planned clinic visits with an obstetric health care professional as well as fear of virus exposure in the clinic setting.

“I was offered the option to use the drive-through clinic at the Pavilion for Women for my 30-week appointment and I was really thankful to have that opportunity because I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” said Kirsti. “It turned out to be a great decision – I had my blood pressure taken and more importantly, I got to hear my baby’s heartbeat, which was incredibly reassuring. It’s a creative solution that I would have no hesitancy opting for again – I felt supported and was able to ask all of the questions I wanted to, safely and conveniently.”

In conjunction with Turrentine and other Texas Children’s obstetrics and gynecology physicians, Texas Children’s Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief Dr. Michael A. Belfort recently published a paper about the drive-through prenatal clinic in Obstetrics & Gynecology. In that paper, Belfort said the drive-through model is projected to reduce the number of in-person clinic visits by 33% per patient compared with the traditional prenatal care paradigm, using equipment and supplies that most obstetric clinics in the United States can access.

“What we have seen so far at Texas Children’s is that the concept of a drive-through prenatal clinic works,” Belfort said. “They are reducing patient anxiety without compromising quality of care. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

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