Well before they were ready to try again, Prak Pandiyan and her husband met with Duke maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Amy Murtha, MD. “She was very empathetic,” Prak Pandiyan said. “The first thing she said was, ‘You went through hell!’ That acknowledgment was very important to me.”
Dr. Murtha also explained that there are some things that could be done to help reduce the chance of another premature birth. That’s the goal of the prematurity prevention clinic she directs at Duke Maternal-Fetal Medicine. “It’s full-service care,” she said. “We take care of moms who are at high-risk for preterm birth throughout their pregnancy. And we are present in the birthing center for their delivery.”
When Prak Pandiyan became pregnant again, she began seeing Dr. Murtha and her team at the clinic, where she received extra care and support. “I had additional ultrasounds,” Prak Pandiyan said, “just to keep a close eye on things.”
She also received weekly shots known as 17P. “That’s the common name for a progesterone shot that’s given to moms who have had a prior preterm birth,” said Dr. Murtha. “It’s been shown to reduce preterm birth by about a third.”
As with her first pregnancy, things proceeded normally for Prak Pandiyan. But week 23—the gestational stage at which Niko was born—loomed as a critical point. “Dr. Murtha and her staff had shared with me that that’s usually the most difficult part of the pregnancy,” she said. “And, sure enough, that’s when I started having more questions and making extra phone calls to the team.” The clinic has a phone number patients can call 24/7 to reach a nurse or physician. “That helped a lot,” said Prak Pandiyan. “I was always able to access someone who could help answer my concerns.”
The clinic also provides women who have previously had premature babies with more frequent and longer visits with their doctors. “I think giving the patient an opportunity to speak to the physician in a more relaxed way helps reduce the stress of going through a second pregnancy, often after having been through something devastating,” Dr. Murtha said. Patients also receive nutrition counseling, social work support and extra educational materials.
Family portrait with a photo of Niko (Linsley Schneider Photography)