High-risk pregnancy monitoring

PITTSBURGH – Pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes can begin without warning. 

Women will often have no symptoms, but these are conditions that can create long-lasting health problems for mother and baby. 

Some health providers are using a first-of-its-kind monitoring system for moms at high risk.

Skylar Andrews was in perfect health when she became pregnant with her son, Zayn. But toward the end of her pregnancy, Andrews' blood pressure skyrocketed.

Andrews had a condition called pre-eclampsia, dangerous for mom during pregnancy and after. 

"It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke over the lifetime, about two and a half-fold," said Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Magee-Womens Hospital.  

That's why doctors encouraged Andrews to check herself at home, using a portable cuff and a smartphone. 

Jessica Wolfe, 38, also needed high-tech support. After years of battling infertility, this was a big surprise.

"We still struggle with, 'Wow, this is real. This is happening. We're gonna have a baby,'" Wolfe said.

Wolfe is considered higher risk because she has gestational diabetes. 

An app on Wolfe's smartphone generates reminders to check her blood sugar four times a day and report back so doctors can respond.

"We want to be able to identify the patients who need a phone call and not just identify them when they show up in the emergency department," Simhan said.

Andrews' blood pressure is now back to normal. Two conditions made a little more manageable with the touch of a button. 

Simham said the remote monitoring program also helps with compliance after pregnancy. 

Only about 40 percent of women keep their postpartum appointments after they deliver. 

Ninety percent of women enrolled in the remote monitoring program during pregnancy keep their appointments.