Pregnancy Care at Ellen Health

This is another article with  specific focus on Ellen Health. However, there are some sections in this piece that are applicable to a more general audience (especially the one on recent advances in pregnancy care).


An important part of any woman’s pregnancy is receiving good quality care before, during and after birth. There is a wealth of evidence that suggests that women who receive such care have improved neonatal and maternal outcomes; potential risks can be identified, maternal and fetal health is optimised and, through education, the process of having a baby becomes far less stressful.

I recently had the privilege of meeting a few of Ellen Health’s key staff members who look after pregnant women. From the outset I could sense their passion for quality pregnancy care, their wealth of knowledge and the supportive environment they had created. To me, Ellen Health really felt like a place where pregnant women and their families could ask questions, and in return receive accurate and balanced information so they could make informed choices. 

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Meet The Team

At Ellen Health, a multidisciplinary team of doctors and midwives provide comprehensive and up-to-date pregnancy care. While midwives and general practitioners perform the majority of the care, the team also benefits from the skills of nurses, psychologists, a sexual health specialist and a consultant obstetrician.

The multidisciplinary team approach to pregnancy care has many advantages. Patients can benefit from the shared skills and knowledge of the team, and having everyone in one location means Ellen Health is a convenient  ‘one stop shop’ for pregnancy care. Additionally, a multidisciplinary approach allows for better continuity of care and the development of strong relationships with pregnancy care providers. This been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes and decrease intervention rates, and also means that if there are any issues throughout or after the pregnancy there is someone you can turn to.

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Midwives

Midwives are experts at normal pregnancy, which makes them perfectly trained to undertake the majority of pregnancy care. Ellen Health is fortunate to have Sally Grayson as part of the team, an accomplished midwife who can been seen both at Ellen Health and at a woman’s home up to six weeks postnatally.

In addition to experience in both hospital and community settings, Sally has completed extra training to become an eligible midwife. On top of her skills in antenatal care, lactation education and postnatal care, this qualification means that she can prescribe medications and complete the appropriate prenatal tests and assessments.

One of the most exciting opportunities Sally is able to offer is comprehensive birth plan consultations after 20 weeks of gestation. These consults are 90 minutes long and are bulk billed. Sally has also been arranging monthly classes on childbirth and parenting that are excellent opportunities to become informed and network with other pregnant women. Topics that will be included in these talks include methods of pain relief during birth, when to come to hospital, normal labour, breastfeeding and postnatal problems.

Sally’s midwifery philosophy focuses on her passion for woman-centred and evidenced based care, and she strongly believes in developing positive relationships with her patients. ‘I feel it is a huge privilege to be working with women and their families at such a key time in their lives, and I feel that I possess the skills to empower women through informed choice, support and holistic education.’

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General Practitioners

While also skilled in managing normal pregnancies, general practitioners are best placed to deal with the complicated medical issues that may arise. They are also able to gauge the risk a woman may face when giving birth, and can therefore assist with creating a safe and sensible birth plan. While all of the general practitioners at Ellen Health offer shared pregnancy care with hospitals, Drs Catherine Douglass, Keren Witcombe, Linda Muntz and Suzie Robinson have have each obtained a Diploma of Obstetrics, providing them with experience in deliveries as well as antenatal and postnatal care. Additionally, Drs Tessa McLean, Gia Barbarich and Liz Davidson have a special interest in pregnancy care.

Many of the Ellen health doctors have also completed research into the field of pregnancy care and have other specialised areas of knowledge. ‘I worked a lot at King Edward in the high risk clinics and in the perinatal loss clinics, and when these women come back for their next pregnancies they need really good care’, says Dr. Catherine Douglass. ‘Working with stillbirths and miscarriages… it’s not a nice topic to talk about, but it’s an area that cannot be missed.’

A general practitioner can also make sure that any health conditions you may have prior to falling pregnant are under control. ‘Sometimes the first time a women has ever had a thorough check up is when they are pregnant’, says Catherine. ‘This is where it’s really important to pick up conditions like thyroid disease, heart murmurs or any other condition that no one’s checked out.’ As Catherine explains, conditions of the thyroid are particularly important to pick up, as even minor abnormalities can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage. ‘For the girls that are coming in with recurrent early first trimester miscarriages, you must check their thyroid’.

If there are any issues or concerns following birth, seeing a general practitioner is also encouraged (there is no need to wait until a baby’s six-week check-up!) If not already covered in earlier visits, contraception information can also be provided at this time.

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New To Pregnancy Care at Ellen Health 

Ellen Health strives to be at the cutting edge of pregnancy care. Here are just two of the recent advances being offered at the practice:

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Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing with Western Diagnostic

A highly accurate non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) called Generation™ is now available for use from ten weeks of gestation. By taking a sample of the mother’s blood, DNA that has crossed from the placenta into the bloodstream can be detected and screened for common chromosomal abnormalities such Down syndrome. Up until recently, the only way to test fetal DNA was via more invasive and higher risk methods such as amniocentesis or placental biopsies in the second trimester. By contrast NIPT is simple, highly accurate and convenient.

NIPT has been so successful that in January 2016 the UK National Screening Committee recommended that all high-risk pregnancies in the UK be systematically screened by NIPT. The latest best practice guidelines from Australia and international medical societies also recommend that pregnant women be offered the opportunity to discuss NIPT.

It is worth noting that the NIPT is an optional test that is not currently covered by Medicare (the current cost is around $500).  Additionally, the NIPT does not replace the need for a first trimester screen.

Further information on NIPT can be found here.

NIPT.png
The Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) analyses fetal DNA in the maternal bloodstream to screen for common chromosomal abnormalities. Image from Sonic Genetics.

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Novel Evidence-Based Treatment for the Prevention of Stretch Marks

Stratamark is a topical gel designed to reduce and prevent stretch marks. When applied to the skin, Stratamark works by hydrating and protecting the skin, as well as promoting collagen synthesis. It is safe to use during pregnancy, and can be applied to the abdomen from as early as fifteen weeks gestation.

There is mounting evidence to suggest that Stratamark is a highly effective medial therapy; in a recent European clinical trial, women who used Stratamark had significantly reduced levels of stretch marks compared with non-users (18.2% compared with 65-70%), and those that did develop stretch marks had only mild to moderate marks. Multicentre trials are now being conducted in Australia to confirm these findings, and Ellen Health is taking part.

If you are interested in participating in a trial for this new treatment, please let your doctor know. More information can be found here.

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More Information 

More information about pregnancy care at Ellen Health can be found on their website, or by contacting Ellen Health directly. The website also has extra information about the staff that can assist you with pregnancy care.

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