Pregnancy just got easier for Summit County women who had to drive up and down the Interstate-70 corridor to seek specialty care in Denver.
Dr. Meghan Donnelly, a maternal fetal medicine physician, has joined the team of High Country Healthcare OB/GYN specialists in Frisco, to offer specialized care to women with high-risk pregnancies. Maternal-fetal medicine is a specialty of obstetrics, focusing on the management of pregnancies in which the mother, baby or both might be at risk.
Donnelly has been providing general obstetrical and gynecological care for patients at High Country Healthcare for two years and has now expanded her services to pregnant women who need this kind of specialized attention not previously available in Summit County.
Her family has a house in Silverthorne, and Donnelly said she comes up to Summit County almost every weekend to ski anyway. She was interested in helping with deliveries on weekends and started working one weekend a month in 2011. Now, she is running two high-risk ultrasound clinics, as well.
“Sometimes the baby can dictate high-risk, sometime it’s the mom, and my job is to advocate for both beings,” she said. “I want the best outcome for mom and baby to be safe.”
Donnelly cares for pregnant women with conditions such as heart or kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes. She also sees women with pregnancy-related complications, including pre-term labor or even twin or triplet pregnancies.
Donnelly said she loves feeling part of the community up here. St. Anthony Summit Medical Center can not handle high-risk births, she said, so the labor and delivery of those pregnancies had to happen down in Denver. Now, part of her job is to make it safe for mothers to deliver up in Summit County. But if she requires other specialty care, the mom must still deliver in Denver.
“Down in Denver there are a lot of high-risk pregnancies, there are not a lot of happy fun deliveries, and I get to keep doing that up here,” Donnelly said.
Dealing with two patients at once, Donnelly said, can often be challenging but rewarding. In Summit County, she sees pregnant women with high blood pressure, diabetes, advanced maternal age and multiples — lots of twins. She cares for pregnant women with heart disease and cancer, as well, working as a go-between with specialists to make sure treatments and care maintain fetal health.
“People have this idea that, ‘Oh, you can’t touch her, she’s pregnant,’” she said. “It’s like hot potato, no one wants to do anything but the mom still needs care.”
Donnelly often creates a birthing plan for mothers, and because she’s the only fully trained maternal-fetal medicine specialist in the High Country, mothers no longer have to drive to Denver for specialty care. Pregnancy at high altitude can also present extra challenges, she said.
“We have a slightly higher rate of preeclampsia in Summit County, which is a combination of high blood pressure and protein in the urine that can increase the life-threatening risk of seizure during pregnancy,” she said.
Aside from her new role at High Country Healthcare, Donnelly also serves as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and as the medical director of Anschutz Maternal Fetal Medicine Practice at the Colorado Institute for Maternal and Fetal Health. Donnelly said she can see eight to 10 women every clinic, and that the service quickly has gotten busy.
While she does not have children herself — her baby is her big Bernese mountain dog — Donnelly said she enjoys getting to work with women. It can be scary to go through a high-risk pregnancy, but getting to keep everyone healthy is something she loves.
“Once a day there’s something I’ve never seen before,” she said. “There are some things you can not control, but it’s never boring. It’s a really good feeling, to help people with this part of their lives and to make it successful.”