Brooklyn Heights recently became home to a new type of maternity care center, Oula. The clinic aims to combine in-person and telehealth style appointments to provide a more comprehensive and holistic approach to pre and postnatal support.
Adrianne Nickerson, and CEO and Co-Founder of Oula, says that incorporating telehealth was a goal even before the changes brought around by COVID-19.
“The average woman treks to fourteen in-person appointments, and [in] a lot of them they’re just kind of measuring your belly, maybe taking a blood pressure reading and sending you on your way. It seemed really obvious to us from the beginning that telehealth should be part of the model. Women should have access to care when and how they want it, and COVID was just an accelerant,” Nickerson said.
Oula provides care via tele-health appointments earlier than many more traditional OBs.
“Women find out they’re pregnant frequently maybe at week four, week five, week six. It’s right at the beginning typically if they’re trying, and most OBs offices say ‘we’ll see you at week ten, maybe week twelve’. There’s this huge gap where you’re really anxious and want to know more about your pregnancy. ‘Am I Supposed to take a vitamin? What should I stop doing?’ We saw telehealth as this great way to connect with women really early in their pregnancy,” Nickerson said.
Both Nickerson and the COO and Co-Founder, Elaine Purcell, are going through their own pregnancies as they launch the center.
“It’s probably made us better at building the experience. You feel like you’re building the plane while you fly it, because I’m going to be probably the first person to deliver with Oula at our new practice. There’s almost a sense of urgency to be doing it faster and better selfishly for me, but also for everyone else we’re building it for,” Nickerson said with a laugh.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light systemic inequalities in the healthcare system, especially when it comes to pregnant women of color and post-natal support for all new mothers.
For Oula, combatting this is extremely important.
The clinic has several plans in place, including setting targets for patient diversity, aggregating patient data to look more closely at outcomes based on race and experience, hiring a more diverse staff, and designing a care model that allows for more time spent with each patient, in the hopes of allowing women to be able to voice any concerns or questions more confidently.
“I think COVID has exposed a lot of things that have been really terrible about our system for the last few decades, and in some ways, maybe the silver lining will be a lot more people will pay attention,” Nickerson said.
Postnatal care is also more important than ever, as new mothers struggle with more isolation.
“We definitely adjusted how we’re following up with women. Typically you go to see your OB six weeks after you give birth which is kind of crazy. They’ll send you home with a baby from the hospital, ‘good luck, we’ll see you in six weeks’,” Nickerson said. “Even in good times, we need more support than that. We check-in and use telehealth to do a week one and week three [check-in], just to make sure that women are doing well.”
The clinic hopes to be a holistic one in more ways than just combining telehealth and in-person, and has made it a mission to provide support and services across the board of needs.
“It feels like women are usually forced to pick between two options. They’re either picking an OB and a really clinical approach or they’re picking a midwife and a home birth. It felt like it was a false binary. You shouldn’t have to pick between the two, you should be able to go to a place that has both,” Nickerson said. Oula also provides support and opportunities for finding doulas, pelvic floor therapists, and other care options.
“It’s a personal experience in terms of what we’re building, and it just felt natural to be doing it in Brooklyn to start off,” Nickerson, who has lived in the borough for more than a decade, said.
If you’re interested in becoming a patient, more information can be found here about availability and insurance. Oula is located at 109 Montague Street, between Hicks and Henry streets.