Holding 4-week-old Riley Branch, Akron Children’s Home Care nurse Karla Spencer marveled at each perfect little finger and his sleepy grin.
In the months leading up to the delivery day, Spencer visited Riley’s mom, Shelly, weekly to check in with her and administer progesterone shots. Shelly’s first child, Elliot, now 2, was born 2 months premature.
For moms like Shelly, who’ve had premature deliveries in the past, progesterone therapy has been shown to reduce the chances of another premature delivery by 35%.
Having the weekly therapy delivered at home helps alleviate the worry and hassle many high-risk pregnant women face.
“Home care makes getting progesterone shots less stressful for patients,” said Spencer. “For many moms-to-be, making the weekly trip to the doctor can be difficult – inclement weather, arranging care for their children and other factors can become a burden. On top of all that they may not be feeling up to it.”
In September of 2014, Akron Children’s Home Care Group began training field nurses in administering progesterone shots and evaluating maternal health. The effort began in large part to address the alarming infant mortality rates in the state of Ohio.
“Initially, Akron Children’s maternal fetal center came to us to see if there was a way we could help raise awareness on prematurity prevention,” said Helen Vigh, Akron Children’s Home Care Group coordinator. “We determined that providing home care to high-risk pregnant women just made sense since we’re already in many of the homes of premature babies.”
Vigh developed the home care prematurity prevention program with the support of her manager, Tina Gearhart.
“We want to ensure that any mom who has a need for this type of care can receive it in her home,” Vigh said. “Our goal is to help decrease prematurity and infant mortality along with taking an active part in the prematurity initiatives for the state of Ohio.”
Shelly was the first mother to take part in the program.
Besides the convenience, Shelly appreciated the personal attention she received from Spencer.
“She was always really pleasant and she’d include Elliot, letting him listen to the baby’s heartbeat and getting out the scale from her bag,” said Shelly. “She made me feel like I was being taken care of and everything with my pregnancy was being watched closely.”
Ideally, progesterone therapy starts at the mother’s 16th week of pregnancy. The thick, oil-based liquid is administered in the upper part of the hip weekly through the 36th week of pregnancy. The home care visits usually last around 30 to 45 minutes, although the first visit is a little longer.
During the visit, the home care nurse:
- Checks the baby’s heartbeat using a fetal Doppler
- Monitors the mother’s weight
- Collects mother’s blood pressure and pulse
- Asks questions about the mother’s overall health
- Answers any questions the mother has about her pregnancy
- Provides education on healthy lifestyle behaviors
- Reviews the signs and symptoms of preterm labor
- Helps develop an emergency plan and home risk assessment
- Administers the progesterone shot
Afterward, Spencer sends a report about the visit to the woman’s healthcare provider.
Providing reassurance for moms-to-be is often a part of visits, too.
“These women have had difficult pregnancies and births previously so I think it’s reassuring for them to have someone check in with them in person, in their home, each week,” said Spencer, who notes that she probably was almost as excited as Shelly in the days leading up to Riley’s birth.
Riley was born full-term on Feb. 20, weighing just over 6 lbs. and measuring 20 ½ in. long.
“The first time I saw baby Riley my heart smiled and flooded with great joy,” said Spencer. “It was so wonderful to hold this little person that I listened to, cheered for, and prayed for every week, for 20 weeks. It truly was a privilege to travel on this journey with Shelly and her family, and to contribute to baby Riley’s safe and healthy delivery.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.