The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has proposed a shift in the delivery of postpartum care to try to curb increasing maternal mortality rates. In a committee opinion issued this month, ACOG specifically names using technology such as email and text among effective strategies for increasing patient engagement and attendance at postpartum visits.
ACOG recommends that postpartum care be an ongoing process—rather than a single follow-up appointment typically 6 weeks after childbirth—and focuses on the concept of the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy. The announcement is yet another step toward recognizing that healthcare professionals need to manage a patient’s entire episode of care.
While expectant mothers have many appointments during pregnancy, the majority of their self-care happens outside the hospital or obstetrics practice. Even more so in the postpartum period, a lack of regular in-person appointments can leave new mothers uninformed about their own care and their child’s care.
Digital health tools have the opportunity to help fill in this access-to-care gap, keeping moms and babies healthy and preventing postpartum hospital readmissions and complications.
One new mom receiving digital postpartum support from her hospital described the benefits in this way:
"A new mother feels very suddenly alone and cut off from experienced and professional advice when she is discharged from the hospital. These regular messages with reminders of to-dos, developmental progress and common challenges were very reassuring and helpful to read."
ACOG states that, “obstetric providers should begin counseling their patients during pregnancy” about postpartum care, making it critical that physicians have an ongoing way to communicate with expectant mothers early in their care and well after labor and delivery.
Read the full Opinion, “Optimizing Postpartum Care,” here.