Connie Leeper, MD, Discusses Family Medicine Obstetrics
As a family medicine obstetrician practicing in Alabama, a widely rural state, I know firsthand the challenges obstetricians and patients encounter in rural areas, where there is often a lack of access to prenatal care, specialty care, and even hospitals that can deliver babies.
One way that the need has been filled is with family medicine obstetricians. These medical specialists have completed three years of family medicine training and then undertaken additional training in obstetrics to become fully competent and comfortable at taking care of women, and that includes providing prenatal care and delivering babies, often after high-risk pregnancies.
I find that minority communities in rural areas are especially challenged when it comes to receiving medical care. In certain parts of Alabama, there are huge minority populations, and many women from these communities are at high risk for pregnancy complications. One of the benefits of family medicine obstetrics is that it gives these women access to quality care. A family medicine obstetrician has more than sufficient knowledge and skills to provide them with prenatal care and treat any complications that may arise.
There’s a lot that we can learn during prenatal exams about medications that can be prescribed to prevent complications. In general, preventing complications is one of the main reasons prenatal care is so important. Whether a woman lives in a rural area or not, it’s also important that women of reproductive age take a daily prenatal vitamin. It has extra folic acid and other necessary nutrients, and you should take prenatal vitamins even if you’re on a proper diet. Ideally, you want to be on the vitamins before you know you’re pregnant because so many of a baby’s organs develop within the first few weeks, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
Another benefit of family medicine obstetrics is that it allows you to care for women long before they’re pregnant, often when they’re children or teenagers. When they become pregnant, you then provide prenatal care, then deliver the babies and help care for them afterward.
As a family medicine obstetrician, I find that there is a joy to delivering babies and being part of a family’s special moment, particularly if you’ve cared for the mother through a difficult pregnancy and have grown to know the family. It’s a feeling that never gets old.
Dr. Connie Leeper, MD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL. She is certified by the Board of Certification in Family Medicine Obstetrics (BCFMO), which is governed by the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS).