A mature woman is touching the stomach of her beautiful girlfriend and happily expecting the birth of a child.
How perinatal nurse navigators bring peace of mind to at-risk pregnancies
Pregnancy is filled with exciting moments, from seeing your positive pregnancy test to laying eyes on your baby for the first time. But for many women at high risk of complications, pregnancy can be a confusing and stressful journey. Having a perinatal nurse navigator (PNN) by your side can provide the extra care and support you need.
Started by a cancer surgeon in the 1980s, patient navigation plays an essential role in helping patients overcome barriers to care. Adopted by many maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) practices over the past decade, nurse navigators elevate the pregnancy experience for millions of women. A crucial part of any MFM practice, perinatal nurse navigation have led to better health outcomes for at-risk mothers and babies.
The rise of maternal-fetal medicine
MFM grew out of the late-1960s technological advances that allowed doctors to diagnose and treat fetal complications in utero. The subspecialty’s growth coincided with a rise in the average age of first pregnancy. As couples prioritized careers and financial stability well into their 20s, many waited longer to start a family. As a result, they often required help to conceive and maintain their pregnancies.
Increased risk with age
When trying to conceive in their mid-to-late 30s or even early 40s, many women experience infertility problems as they produce fewer viable eggs each year. When women become pregnant at these ages, there is a higher risk of complications, such as preterm labor, congenital abnormalities, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Older women are also more likely to become pregnant with multiples, which requires a higher level of surveillance and care.
The complications of chronic disease
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, six in ten American adults have a chronic health issue. High-risk pregnancies are increasingly common as chronic diseases – like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes – continue to rise. Whether a pre-existing condition requires medication that could hinder the baby’s development or the disease itself complicates pregnancy, at-risk mothers and babies require closer monitoring.
The foundational support of a perinatal navigator
Once an OBGYN identifies a patient as high-risk, they will partner with a maternal-fetal medicine provider for additional testing and follow-up care. Perinatal nurse navigators provide an extra layer of patient support that helps at-risk moms endure a tough pregnancy. From conception to postpartum care, navigators can provide:
- Patient education. Googling health issues can add anxiety to an already stressful situation. Perinatal navigators provide a fact-based alternative to online searches. As accessible health care providers, navigators provide patients accurate information about a diagnosis or health condition.
- Follow-up. If a baby needs extra care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or a mom requires an extended hospital stay, a nurse navigator will follow up on breastfeeding and postpartum depression concerns.
- Patient Advocacy. At-risk patients may require additional consultations, diagnostic testing, or corrective surgery. A nurse navigator helps find and facilitate this care. They can also serve as a liaison, attending appointments to advocate for what’s best for the mother or child.
- Coordination of Care. Navigating the health care system is complicated. A perinatal nurse navigator helps at-risk patients create a personalized plan that details and tracks their care from conception to delivery. A plan can clarify the patient’s intentions for important matters like pain management, umbilical cord storage, postpartum care, and lactation.
- Orientation. Nurse navigators know the ins and outs of their hospitals. As the due date approaches, navigators tour the facility with expectant mothers to help them feel at home. If an expecting mother has not previously delivered at the hospital, a navigator helps prepare them for what to expect during their stay.
You don’t have to experience an at-risk pregnancy alone. A perinatal nurse navigator provides the one-on-one support you need and helps make your journey to motherhood as safe and comfortable as possible. Their goal is to do the heavy lifting, so you can focus on what’s important: you and your baby.
Meet our perinatal navigators
If you are receiving care at Henrico Doctors' Hospital or The Perinatal Center at Johnston-Willis Hospital, our perinatal nurse navigator Kendall Pacoe will be assisting you during your pregnancy. Kendall graduated from South University with her RN, BSN. After completing her senior preceptorship at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital’s Mother Baby Unit, she joined the team. With a lifelong passion for babies, Kendall is thrilled to guide high-risk patients through their pregnancy. Her passion for patient education and care is an asset to the patients and the families.
If you are receiving care at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, our perinatal nurse navigator Betti Jo Judge will be assisting you during your pregnancy. Turn learn more about Betti Jo and her role, watch the video below. To reach her directly, email Betti Jo Judge or call (540) 498-4682.