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Honored to be helping moms and families on Montana's hi-line


Written by Adriane Haragan, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Montana Perinatal Center

I had never been to Shelby, Montana before. When I arrived, I recall thinking that it looked like the Great Plains were jammed right up to the Rocky Mountains. I learned quickly that the land and people have strong traits here: this part of Montana is home to hard-working agricultural families and has a past and present where indigenous culture is central. This is not an easy place to live and it takes a hearty soul to not only survive but succeed in a place like this.

I came to Montana to help care for high-risk expectant mothers as a physician with the Montana Perinatal Center, a clinic with Kalispell Regional Healthcare. Because Montana is so beautifully vast with rural townships dotted all over the map, access to advanced medical care can be a challenge when more complex situations arise for patients. However, I am also a mother and know how important routines, familiar settings and social systems are to families; and perhaps more so when the added stress of a medical situation is shouldered by parents. A serious medical situation usually affects the mental, emotional, financial and physical well-being of a household. I hope to make this part of life a little easier on the mothers and families I care for.

A maternal-fetal specialist is a doctor of medicine focused on helping women that are facing a complicated pregnancy. I work closely with the patient’s existing obstetrician to obtain advanced imaging and testing that a regular pregnancy would likely not require, I help create care plans for mom and baby (or babies) to reduce overall risk, and assist with difficult births when it’s time to deliver.

I offer these services not only in Kalispell, but also as a traveling physician through our pediatric outreach program and Montana Children’s Specialists. Together with my colleague Juan Martinez-Poyer, MD, we make routine visits to outreach locations such as Cut Bank and Shelby on the hi-line and to Polson. Because of these outreach efforts, mothers are able to stay in their own communities instead of traveling hours to Kalispell for a doctor’s visit while pregnant. Our goal is to help identify risky pregnancies, treat mothers and babies in their own towns and allow them to stay connected to family, friends and routines that are critical to normalcy for any household, but especially during pregnancy.

My first outreach visit to Shelby was a memorable one. Dr. Martinez-Poyer and I were treating a mother-to-be in an exam room, when there was a call over the intercom that a woman in another room was unexpectedly giving birth. Right then. And to heighten the intensity of the sudden situation, the baby was breech (upside-down) which means the feet were coming out first instead of the preferred and safer position of head-first. Normally, when a breech position is detected on an ultrasound or other imaging, medical professionals will schedule a caesarian section (c-section) to avoid risks to the baby, but there was not time to schedule anything at this moment. It was go-time and all of our specialized training kicked into gear.

Dr. Martinez-Poyer and I entered the room and the nurses and physicians were doing their best to keep the mother calm, but she was in a great deal of pain. She did not have time to receive any pain medication and the baby was coming quickly. We were able to speak to the other physicians and also learned that the baby was several weeks early. Although it was a stressful situation for everyone involved, the medical staff worked together to provide a supportive environment for the mother. After only a few pushes and roughly fifteen minutes, we were able to assist in a safe delivery for both mother and baby, carefully guiding the baby out into the world — feet first!

This is why I do my job. To help ease the tension. To give mothers more comfort and relief during a scary time. To help make a high-risk situation less risky.

As we continue our outreach efforts to support moms, babies and families on the hi-line and in Polson, I look forward to meeting more strong women and feisty newborns that embody this Montana spirit. I am glad to be the newest addition to the Montana Perinatal Center team and even more honored to lend my skills and services in moments like these. Moms and families deserve to be at home and in their community.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your special life moments and to be an honorary visitor to your very special part of the country on Montana’s beautiful hi-line.

This article was published in the March 2019 issue of Montana Woman.