Transport program to deliver moms in crisis, handle emergency births

​The region’s first maternal-fetal transport service that includes both obstetrics and pediatrics expertise is being launched this month by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s and Barnes-Jewish hospitals.

The service will arrange transport for moms with high-risk prenatal needs by specially trained personnel to the specialized labor and delivery unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and provide safe, quick and easy transport arrangements for moms. It also will ensure access of the infant to the newborn intensive care unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, if needed.

“Traditional transport services are designed to handle a mom requiring a higher level of care. This service also will take into account the baby’s needs should there be an emergency delivery along the way,” says Michael Nelson, MD, the Virginia Lang Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the School of Medicine and vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Nelson also is the medical director of the Maternal-Fetal Transport Team.

Moms requiring emergency transport include those with preeclampsia, preterm labor and any other health conditions that complicate pregnancy.

Each transport team will include a high-risk obstetrical nurse from Barnes-Jewish Hospital and a neonatal nurse and paramedic from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Transport is provided 24 hours a day by ground or air by one of three mobile intensive care units: the KidsFlight 1 and 2 helicopters and KidsFlight 3, a fixed-wing aircraft dedicated to transporting maternal-fetal patients and critically ill newborns and children.

Based on the needs of the referring community, the service expects to have three to four transports a day by the middle of next year.

“It’s never optimal to separate mother and child,” says F. Sessions Cole, MD, the Park J. White Professor of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and director of newborn medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “A maternal-fetal transport ensures mother and baby remain connected after delivery and that baby’s needs are accounted for even before delivery.”

The new transport service is an extension of an existing relationship between Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals for fetal and newborn care. In 2010, both institutions and the School of Medicine launched the Fetal Care Center, a comprehensive center that offers advanced fetal diagnosis, surgical interventions before and after birth and newborn medicine all on one campus.