How women felt about telehealth pregnancy care during the COVID pandemic

a laptop, phone, and stethoscope on a table
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected how people got pregnancy-related care in the United States. Before COVID, telehealth visits by phone or video were not typically used for prenatal or postpartum care. Once the pandemic started, pregnancy care providers rapidly implemented telehealth practices.

Telehealth for pregnancy-related care is likely to continue after the pandemic. To provide care that’s patient-centered, it’s critical to understand patients’ experience during the pandemic and their preferences about using telehealth moving forward. New findings from the COVID-19 Impacts on Reproduction in the United States (CIRUS) Study show what patients thought of the quality of their telehealth visits and what kind of care they want in the future.

Self-identified women who received pregnancy-related care responded to surveys at two time points during the pandemic. The researchers found that over half reported receiving care via telehealth during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of people who received prenatal care and close to half of postpartum patients said they would prefer to have in-person visits in the future. Overall, they reported high levels of telehealth quality and those with better telehealth experiences were open to using telehealth again.

Most women reported high levels of agreement with statements about the quality of their appointments. The lowest-ranked areas were the visit feeling personal and the patient feeling cared for. This suggests that these relational aspects of care may be more challenging for telehealth visits compared to other aspects of care like ease and giving clear information. Researchers found that a higher proportion of Black, Latina, and other minoritized people said they had telehealth visits compared with white women.

As pregnancy-related telehealth care continues, it’s important to offer prenatal and postpartum appointment options that match the needs and preferences of patients, especially those who disproportionately face barriers in access to care. More research is needed to explore the racial and ethnic differences identified in telehealth visits, including a better understanding of which populations are more likely to be offered various types of telehealth visits for pregnancy-related care.

The findings also suggest that clinicians and health systems should consider strategies to better personalize telehealth and support the development of positive patient-provider relationships during telehealth visits. As we move forward and virtual care continues, future work must align models of prenatal and postpartum care with preferences of diverse patient populations to help ensure people get person-centered and equitable care.