(Salt Lake City, UT) – When a question comes up during pregnancy about what pain medications are safe to take or whether you can paint your soon-to-be baby’s nursery room, who do you ask? In Utah, women, healthcare providers, and even pharmacists turn to the MotherToBaby Utah program for answers.
Today, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) marks 35 years of providing specialized teratology services to nearly 300,000 Utah moms and babies. The MotherToBaby Utah program, formerly known as the Pregnancy Risk Line, is a free, anonymous service that uses telephone, texting, online chat, and email to respond to questions from women and healthcare providers about potentially harmful exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
“We answer questions anonymously so mom can ask us about everything from what cold medications she can take during pregnancy to whether she can continue using her antidepressants. We provide research-based information without judgement to help mom and baby have the best outcomes possible,” said Al Romeo, a teratology information specialist with the program.
Established in 1984, the MotherToBaby Utah Program is a joint endeavor between the UDOH and the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics. It’s one of the oldest programs of its kind in the U.S. Staff are experts in teratology – or the study of birth defects – and provide accurate, research-based information to women and healthcare providers about potential harms from prescription and over-the-counter medications and many other exposures mothers may need to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
“I’ve been a practicing OB/GYN in the Salt Lake Valley since 1996 and using the MotherToBaby Utah program for as long as I can remember,” said Dr. Gayle Stewart, with the Rocky Mountain Women’s Clinic in West Valley City. “MotherToBaby Utah is a very useful resource, especially as there are more and more new medications being used by our pregnant and breastfeeding patients. The response to my questions has always been prompt, thorough, confident, and friendly. And the fact that the program’s staff can also speak to my patients is an added bonus. I can’t imagine working in OB/GYN without this valuable service.”
Staff respond to 6,000-10,000 questions each year. Common questions concern pain medications, antidepressants, herbals and supplements, alcohol, smoking, marijuana, Zika risk when traveling internationally, and over-the-counter medications. The majority of inquiries come from consumers (78%) and the rest are healthcare providers (22%). The service is especially critical for healthcare providers and women in rural Utah where specialized care may not be as readily available.
“I’ve served as a family physician in the Manti area for more than 15 years. MotherToBaby Utah has been invaluable in supporting our efforts to provide the best care possible to our mothers and babies. When I have a concern regarding medications, products, or potential exposures during pregnancy or breastfeeding, I reach out to the Pregnancy Risk Line. I receive immediate, evidence-based information from staff who are professional, knowledgeable, and kind. I recommend the service to all of our patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding,” said Dr. Michael S Frischknecht, a physician with Intermountain Healthcare.
Accurate information can prevent negative and costly outcomes like abortions of otherwise wanted pregnancies, miscarriages, premature deliveries, low birth weight babies, birth defects, toxic effects on a breastfed infant, and decisions to unnecessarily avoid or interrupt breastfeeding.
Romeo says, “Women often get inaccurate, confusing, or conflicting information. We help explain the research so they can make an informed choice that is best for them and their baby.”
For questions about medications and harmful exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, call the MotherToBaby Utah program at 1-800-822-2229 or 801-328-2229, text 1-855-999-3525, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit https://mothertobaby.utah.gov/. Staff and medical consultants are available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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