Newswise — According to a comprehensive study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, pregnant patients who received a combination of virtual and in-office prenatal care during the COVID-19 pandemic, referred to as multimodal prenatal care, experienced similar health outcomes to those who primarily received in-person care before the pandemic. The study involved analyzing data from over 151,000 births.

The analysis compared pregnancy care, delivery, and outcomes during three distinct time periods: pre-pandemic (July 2018 to February 2020), early pandemic (March 2020 to December 2020), and mid-pandemic (December 2020 to October 2021). Notably, there were no significant changes in rates of preeclampsia (a dangerous high-blood pressure condition in pregnancy), severe maternal morbidity, cesarean delivery, preterm birth, and admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) among the studied time periods.

Additionally, the study found that there were no significant disparities in the uptake of telehealth prenatal care across various racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and individuals using languages other than English or residing in rural areas. These findings are essential as they address concerns that people with limited access to video care technology might experience poorer health outcomes.

Lead author Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, a senior research scientist with the Division of Research, emphasized that the study's results indicate a potential ongoing role for remote care in replacing certain in-person prenatal visits, providing greater convenience for those who prefer home-based care, without adversely affecting disadvantaged individuals.

Ferrara highlighted the significance of integrating telemedicine into prenatal health care as it offers an alternative to exclusive in-office care, especially benefiting people residing in underserved areas or facing access barriers. Moreover, current guidelines for prenatal care support the notion that not all prenatal visits need to be conducted in person, and some aspects of care can be effectively delivered remotely.

Throughout the pandemic, the percentage of telemedicine visits for each patient increased significantly from 11% before the pandemic to 21% during the pandemic. However, despite this shift, the average number of prenatal visits per patient remained relatively stable, with 9.4 visits before the pandemic and 9.15 visits during the pandemic period.

Furthermore, the study observed that the specifics of prenatal care remained consistent throughout the pandemic. Key aspects such as blood pressure readings, gestational diabetes screenings, and depression screenings showed no significant changes, indicating that the quality and essential components of care were maintained during the shift to remote and in-person visits.

The study was funded by The Permanente Medical Group.