MOMS Helping Moms

Program uses team approach for high-risk pregnancies

It wasn't the kind of news an expecting mom wants to hear.

During a routine ultrasound about 31 weeks into her pregnancy, Katie Oduyingbo was told that a rapid heart rate had been detected. 

It wasn't hers – it was her baby's.

"It was off the charts," Oduyingbo said, describing the frightening ultrasound results that arose during her February 2017 appointment at OB-GYN Associates, a Lifespan Physician Group practice and part of the Women's Medicine Collaborative.

Fortunately, the collaborative's Multidisciplinary Obstetric Medicine Service (MOMS) was there for her. Almost immediately, maternal-fetal medicine specialist Jami Star, MD, came into the room.

"The fetal heart rate was very, very fast and it wasn't changing," Dr. Star said. "It was in the 200s. That set off a few alarms. The normal heart rate is between 110 to 160 beats per minute.”

Oduyingbo, 28, was immediately transported to the hospital. The baby's heart rate needed to be slowed to prevent a dangerous accumulation of fluid in the body, called fetal hydrops. Pediatric cardiologist Kristin Lombardi, MD, soon provided a diagnosis: Oduyingbo’s baby had supraventricular tachycardia, the most common form of fetal heart arrhythmia.

The good news, Oduyingbo was told, was that her baby’s condition was treatable. And the MOMS program, with its expertise in high-risk pregnancies, was well suited to care for her thanks to a collaborative approach that brings together doctors specializing in obstetrics, maternal-fetal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, endocrinology, rheumatology and behavioral medicine.

During the two-week hospitalization, her medical team determined which medication and dosage could stabilize the baby's heartbeat without becoming toxic to Oduyingbo.

"It's a bit counterintuitive to think of treating a woman with a medication that could potentially affect her heart in order to affect the baby's heart,” Dr. Star said, “but it does work and most of the time pregnant women tolerate this amazingly well."

After leaving the hospital, Oduyingbo had to see several doctors regularly to monitor both her baby's health and hers. The team included Dr. Nwamaka Onwugbenu, her primary obstetrician at Ob-Gyn Associates, a Lifespan Physician Group practice; MOMS program physicians Dr. Star and Dr. Courtney Clark Bilodeau, a specialist in obstetric medicine; and Dr. Lombardi.


Oduyingbo on vacation with husband Layi and their newborn baby.

Since its establishment in 2011, the MOMS program has helped ease the pressure on expecting moms and dads by consolidating medical appointments for high-risk pregnancies.

Oduyingbo and her husband, Layi, were very appreciative.

"Everybody would see me all together so I didn't have to go to many different offices on different days," she said. “I had low blood pressure and a low heart rate (from the medication) so I was very tired."

Due to the circumstances, her team of doctors decided to induce delivery at 38 weeks and to wean mom and baby off the medication one week before.

The delivery went smoothly. And from the time Tatiana was born through the several days she spent in intensive care, her heart rate remained normal. That has continued.

Six months later, during a visit to the Women's Medicine Collaborative on West River Street in Providence, Tatiana was all smiles in her mother's arms before nodding off. Her mother was all smiles, too, while recounting her experience and the support she got from the MOMS program.

Oduyingbo recalled how one evening during her hospital stay, Marshall Carpenter, MD, medical director of maternal-fetal medicine, paid her and her husband an unplanned after-hours visit.

"He took his own time to make a face-to-face appearance, sitting down comfortably as if we had all the time in the world to ask him questions and to give us assurance of what the next steps were. We really appreciated that," she said.

In the months following, doctors would meet as a group and explain to Oduyingbo the next steps.

“I always felt I was in good hands right from the start," she said.