Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM), or perinatology, is a medical specialty that focuses on the management of high-risk pregnancies. A wide range of conditions can cause a pregnancy to be high-risk. A high-risk pregnancy can generally be defined as a pregnancy that endangers the health or life of a pregnant woman and/or her fetus.
What is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist?
A maternal-fetal specialist, or perinatologist, is a physician who has advanced training in conditions that affect a pregnant woman and/or her fetus(es).
In addition to obstetrics and gynecology training, an MFM specialist has 3 more years of education and training in obstetrical, medical and surgical complications of mothers and unborn babies. This training and technical proficiency enable the specialist to provide the extra care or consultation required for both mother and fetus in complicated obstetric situations.
Does a Perinatologist Replace an Obstetrician (OB/GYN)?
No, a perinatologist does not replace your obstetrician, but rather, is an addition to your medical team. Your obstetrician may even refer you to an MFM specialist if they discover the possibility of a high-risk pregnancy. Perinatologists regularly collaborate with family physicians, neonatologists, and OB/GYNs, to ensure holistic quality care for mother and child(ren).
When Do I Turn to A Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist?
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists care for women from preconception to postpartum. While a previous high-risk pregnancy does not guarantee one’s next pregnancy will be high risk, a woman may choose to see a MFM specialist prior to conceiving again for medical advice. Certain existing maternal health problems can negatively impact the pregnancy or be passed down to their baby, so preconception counseling may be recommended.
Another reason one may be referred to a MFM specialist is if the mother or fetus get sick or develop a condition during pregnancy that threatens health or life. This can include maternal and/or fetal complications that involve testing and/or treatment.
Heavy bleeding, infections, or surgical complications are some of the reasons a mother may consult or visit their perinatologist after delivery. In serious cases, the perinatologist will consult with intensive care specialists to best care for sick mothers.
Anticipated birth defects is a reason a newborn may be seen by their perinatologist.
Maternal-Fetal Medicine Services for High-Risk Pregnancies
Perinatology services include but are not limited to:
- Maternal conditions which pose a risk during pregnancy, including diabetes, hypertension, asthma, sickle cell disease, HIV, systemic lupus, and kidney disease
- Obstetric conditions such as multiple gestation (twins or greater), incompetent cervix, preterm labor, Rh sensitization, and recurrent pregnancy loss
- Obstetric ultrasounds performed by MFM specialists for certain diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. These may include comprehensive detailed fetal ultrasound examinations, cervical cerclage, amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, umbilical blood sampling, and intrauterine fetal transfusion.
- Genetic conditions such as suspected or actual birth defects, medication exposure in pregnancy, advanced maternal or paternal age, family or personal history of genetic condition or birth defect, and abnormal biochemical or carrier screening
Comprehensive Fetal Care Center
The Comprehensive Fetal Care Center offers diagnostic 3D and 4D ultrasound testing, on-site genetic counselors, and first trimester screening for fetal chromosome conditions.