Pregnancy at high elevation
By Leo Wolfson, sponsored Centura Health Physician Group, High Country Healthcare and Obstetrics and Gynecology
While most mothers forget the trials and tribulations they experienced during pregnancy the moment they hold their precious baby, the process can be overwhelming. You want it to go as smoothly as possible, but the many options available for delivery can be confusing. Add in the fact that Summit County has some of the highest elevations in the lower 48 and that pregnancy might start to feel particularly daunting. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be so stressful and CHPG-High Country Healthcare (CHPG-HCH) of Frisco has a few suggestions for guiding the process.
“A lot of new moms get diagnosed by their family medicine doctor and it’s like, ‘OK well do I need somebody? Do I need an OB? What do I do?’” said Heather Boucher, a certified nurse midwife at CHPG-HCH.
Boucher recommends seeking out an obstetrics/gynecology practice during pregnancy because they specialize in women’s health and understand the importance of the connection that’s built between mother and staff.
“We are specialists. All we do is women’s health care,” she explained. “I see patients with the OBs (obstetricians), we’re in the same practice. We all share patients. We all share the patients during the pregnancy and we all could be called on to deliver.”
“Seeing everybody, you can formulate the connection and you can really find the person you relate to and feel comfortable sharing your individual concerns and philosophies,” said CHPG-HCH’s Suzanne Lifgren. “The good thing is, because you’re seeing all of our specialists, they work together to meld together the right plan for having a healthy baby.”
One difficulty some expectant mothers have with OBGYNs is understanding the roles of the people that help you on your journey. Here’s a brief rundown:
Doula: A certified birthing support specialist that concentrates on the mother’s needs during labor. They’re the support team for the actual birthing process. They’ll talk the mother through effective positioning and comfort measures that can be taken during labor, but make no clinical decisions.
Midwife: A nurse with advanced practice training in women’s health. Midwives can deliver babies, write prescriptions and surgically assist. Midwives provide a full array of medical services for women of all ages and are not limited to pregnancy and delivery.
Clinical Doctors (Obstetrician): A surgeon doctor who delivers the baby.
“Seeing everybody, you can formulate the connection and you can really find the person you relate to and feel comfortable sharing your elements,” said Lifgren.
The high altitude angle
There are a few aspects that make having baby at high altitude unique. Lack of oxygen often comes into play during and after a mother has given birth, so don’t be alarmed if you and your baby are asked to use breathing masks.
“About 50 percent of our babies at this elevation go home with oxygen and when you go higher, over to Blue River, that goes up to 80-90 percent,” explained Boucher.
Dehydration is also common and should be monitored at all stages of the pregnancy. One of the upsides to having a baby in the High Country is working with a staff that understands the culture and lifestyle of our mountain community.
“The thing that’s interesting up here is that we have a really fit population. The questions we get asked are, ‘Can I run 100 miles while I’m pregnant? Can I mountain bike while I’m pregnant? Can I ride my moto at 30 weeks?’ Those are the questions we’re dealing with and it’s really about weighing risk benefit. We come from a pretty active lifestyle, so we get it,” said Boucher.
Answers to these questions are highly individualized, but often patients who are in good shape with a healthy baby on the way are given the green light
After the pregnancy, that High Country touch doesn’t stop. A postpartum visit occurs typically two days after the birth to be sure that the transition home has gone smoothly and safely. In addition, group sessions called Centering Pregnancy are offered that allow mothers a forum for questions or concerns that they may have.
“Taking a baby home and having to recover from a delivery can sometimes be overwhelming and we want to be assured that our patients are supported through that,” said High Country Healthcare’s Dr. Laura Howell.
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