What is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist (Perinatologist)
A perinatologist, or commonly known as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, is an obstetrician who specializes in prenatal care of women who are at high risk of having a complicated pregnancy.
According to The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), “A Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist is an ObGyn physician who has completed an additional two to three years of education and training. MFM specialists are high-risk pregnancy experts. For pregnant women with chronic health problems, MFM specialists work to keep the woman as healthy as possible while her body changes and her baby grows. MFM specialists also care for women who face unexpected problems that develop during pregnancy, such as early labor, bleeding, or high blood pressure. We’re the go-to for pregnant women who arrive in the hospital for any reason, whether after an accident or at the onset of a kidney infection. In other cases, it’s the baby who faces the un-routine. If we find birth defects or growth problems, we can start treatment before birth, providing monitoring, blood transfusions and surgery to support babies until they are ready to arrive in the world.”
What does a maternal-fetal medicine specialist do?
A maternal-fetal medicine specialist offers specializedobstetrical care to pregnant women, who may be considered high-risk, from conception (or sometimes pre-conception) through the post-partum period.
Typically, an OB/GYN will refer the mother to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, if necessary. Maternal-fetal medicine physicians partner with multiple caregivers to consult, co-manage or care directly for complicated situations, both before, during and after pregnancy.
The maternal-fetal medicine team
As high-risk pregnancy experts, maternal-fetal medicine physicians complete specialized training to care for both mom and baby during a complicated pregnancy. They are board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and they have completed four years of medical school and four years of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency prior to the three year Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellowship.
The perinatal registered nurses all possess previous experience either in labor & delivery and/or caring for normal & high-risk antepartum patients. They focus on continuous antepartum screening and assessment and are trained and provide advanced patient education particularly in gestational diabetes management, and other special education related to patient diagnosis.
Our registered diagnostic medical sonographers are also part of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine team. They possess expertise in abdominal and obstetrical ultrasound scanning and are supported clinically by the staff maternal-fetal medicine specialists.
Genetic counseling is provided by masters or doctoral-prepared board certified genetic counselors and medical geneticists. The genetic counselor’s role is to provide information and support to couples/families who have had a concern identified in their current pregnancy or have a family history of birth defects or genetic disorders. The genetic counselors are also available to discuss all prenatal screening and diagnostic testing.
Ancillary hospital staff members from areas such as the Cytogenetics Laboratory and other subspecialties also provide support when necessary.
Conditions a maternal-fetal medicine specialist specializes in
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists specialize in high-risk pregnancy management and treating complications of pregnancy. Some of the conditions and risks are:
- Pre-existing health conditions that may lead to complications, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Eating disorders
- Pre-term labor
- Advanced maternal age
- A history of pregnancy complications, such as:
- Pre-term labor
- Low birth weight
- Fetal anomalies and potential or diagnosed fetal abnormalities that require fetal monitoring
- Twins and multiples
- Gestational diabetes
- Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia
- Growth restriction
- Bed rest
Treatments that a maternal-fetal medicine specialist offers that differ from a standard OB/GYN
General obstetricians deliver babies and practice general gynecology. Perinatologists further specialize in medical and surgical complications of pregnancy that can affect the mother and in diagnosing and managing complex fetal conditions, such as genetic abnormalities. Perinatologists are experts in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies.
When to see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and you know you are at high risk for complications or you are over the age of 35, you may want to see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. Talk to your OB/GYN about your concerns, and ask whether he or she would recommend that you add a specialist to your healthcare team.
SMFM is a great resource to help determine when to see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
For a referral to a Beaumont maternal-fetal medicine specialist, call 800-633-7377.