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What to expect when you're at a medical school obstetrics lab

March 15, 2023

By Holly Ittel

Medical students examine a pregnant woman during a lab

At twenty-four weeks pregnant, I participated in the Osteopathic Manipulation Treatment Lab with Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine students. The second-year medical students eagerly waited in the large lab room filled with dozens of medical tables, while the other participants and I waited in the third-floor hallway of the new and impressive Heritage Hall. Walking into the classroom, I was unsure of what to expect. I have had professional OMT treatment before, but never from a group of student doctors. I was led to my assigned table in the front of the room next to a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Athens campus. 

With warm smiles, a group of four medical students greeted me. Two of the students were very enthusiastic to interact with their first pregnant patient, mentioning that they intend to practice OB/GYN after graduation. One at a time, the students asked me many questions about my social and health background, my current and previous pregnancy and any related concerns. By asking a series of follow up questions, I felt confident they understood my health background and concerns. The students then assessed me by measuring my heart rate and blood pressure before asking to examine the baby’s heart rate. 

The students anxiously searched for the baby’s heart rate using a handheld fetal doppler. This was the students’ first time finding and hearing a fetus’s heartbeat. The excitement on their faces when they found it brought a tear to my eye!  

“That’s your baby’s heartbeat!” one of the students exclaimed.  

Since this is my second pregnancy, I have not felt the excitement of a first-timer until that moment! Sharing the students’ excitement felt so heartwarming and reassured me that the baby is healthy and content. The students then measured the fundal height and located the baby’s head, back and bottom. Next, the students gently evaluated my body for needed adjustments.  

After discussing their findings, they presented them to an instructor who provided feedback and support to me and the students. The students discussed a treatment plan, which was approved by their instructor. The students then conducted various OMT techniques focusing on adjustments to my hips, pelvis, shoulders and back, continuously checking that I was physically comfortable and comfortable with the manipulations they were performing. 

Following the treatments, the students thanked me for participating, each telling me a bit about themselves and why they enjoyed the opportunity to learn from me as their patient. It was a wonderful opportunity for me, as well, to see a glimpse into how future doctors are educated at Heritage College.