16:33 PM

Holy Rosary Healthcare Keeps Care Close to Home for Mothers Facing a High-Risk Pregnancy

Melissa Digman

All expectant mothers hope for an uneventful pregnancy and a healthy birth, but things don’t always go according to plan. Montana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, underlining just how important it is for pregnant women, especially in rural areas, to keep up with regular prenatal care visits and receive care when they need it.  

“We’re one of only two hospitals in southeast Montana that does obstetrics and deliveries, so it’s really about being able to provide care to patients who live in this area,” Jay Littlefield, MD, an OB/GYN with Holy Rosary Healthcare, explained. “The biggest barrier they face is not being able to access care because of their physical location. Some patients I see commute anywhere from one to three hours and up to 150 miles to come to Miles City for appointments. By bringing these services to them, they are more likely to get the prenatal care they need.”   

And for women facing high-risk pregnancies, Holy Rosary Healthcare and Intermountain Health’s recently expanded Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) services are a lifeline.    

With the new program, when Dr. Littlefield identifies patients who may be at risk for pregnancy complications, he is able to refer them quickly to an MFM specialist, like Michael Gordon, MD, at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, for a telehealth consultation or in-person appointment.   

Through this new program, Dr. Littlefield and Dr. Gordon hope to break down some of those access barriers for moms and babies in eastern Montana by providing care in their local communities. In addition to the increased access to specialized care, the MFM program also provides advanced training and access for sonographers in rural areas that allows them to perform routine and Level II, high-risk ultrasounds at local healthcare facilities, like Holy Rosary, rather than requiring women to have to travel for additional tests and diagnosis.   

Mothers facing a high-risk pregnancy may have a telemedicine visit after an initial ultrasound with the MFM specialist to get recommendations for care and timing of further ultrasounds in the pregnancy. Telemedicine technology also allows MFM providers to see the ultrasound in real time to examine areas of concern for the health of the mother and baby.   

The availability of telemedicine and advanced ultrasound services at Holy Rosary makes MFM services more accessible for mothers facing high-risk pregnancies. Rather than having to travel for advanced care, if mothers need follow-up ultrasound or testing later in pregnancy, they can have those done in Miles City rather than traveling to Billings.   

Melissa Dickman, a Holy Rosary Maternal Fetal sonographer, shared, “Helping our patients have a safe, healthy pregnancy is rewarding, especially when facing a high-risk pregnancy. Without the support of our Maternal Fetal Medicine team and having this advanced technology and expertise in our community, our patients would have to travel longer distances and often wait for results, which can be stressful. I am grateful for our OB providers and Maternal Fetal Medicine team.”  

Once a woman has been identified as having a high-risk pregnancy, the MFM specialists work closely with the patients’ local OB/GYNs to determine the most appropriate care plan for her pregnancy, labor and delivery.