Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists are medical professionals specialized in handling high-risk pregnancies. When chronic health issues are identified in pregnant women, the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist works with the OB/Gynec or other hospital settings to ensure the well-being and health of the woman monitoring the growth of the baby and the changes in the body of the pregnant woman. MFM specialists also provide care for women facing unexpected issues with their pregnancy including bleeding, early labour, or high blood pressure. If the MFM specialist identifies birth defects in the foetus, he/she can start treatment immediately and potentially avert certain deformities or recommend blood transfusion, and surgery to provide support and care for the baby until he is ready to be ushered into this world.
All MFM are qualified physicians with specialization in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and would usually have completed about three years of additional education, and clinical experience to horn in specialized skills need to help pregnant women and the child
Ideally, women experiencing chronic health issues begin seeing an MFM at the pre-conception stage. Regular health care providers refer such women to an MFM if they suspect conditions like:-
High blood pressure
Problems during earlier pregnancies like premature delivery
Injury or sickness during pregnancy
Growth problems or birth defect for the baby
According to EMOG, other instances when a woman may be referred to an MFM include complications developed during pregnancy such as elevated blood pressure, seizures, heavy bleeding or diabetes/gestational diabetes. An MFM can provide advice for appropriate care during labour and delivery or assist with delivery. An MFM can also provide post-natal care, particularly when the delivery had complications.
For many women, a reference to an FM can be alarming, but it is important to remember that the attention from a specialist gives the baby and the woman best chances of a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Most women who are diagnosed as carrying a high-risk pregnancy can be fine when they get appropriate care.
Some women, however, continue seeing their regular gym/ob for nearly all their appointments related to the pregnancy and periodically visit the MFM. In other instances, the MFM takes charge of all the care needed for the woman. Policies at the regular gym/ob’s practice and the condition of the woman will dictate the frequency at which she sees the MFM. Usually, more visits are essential in the case of a high-risk pregnancy and can include more ultrasounds compared to normal pregnancies. If a woman carrying a high-risk pregnancy does not have a large hospital in her neighbourhood, she may need to travel a great distance to see an MFM. In most situations, the MFM insist on a referral from the regular healthcare provider which is possibly essential to. As for the insurance part, most carriers do cover MFMs just as they would with other specialists. However, you should be aware of specific provisions enshrined in your policy.
The following are among conditions that could affect potentially need attention from a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist:
- Water breaking or early contractions: Normal events related to labour start pretty early for some women, and that can present risks for the foetus, forcing the baby into this world much before it is ready. MFMs can administer drugs to slow down the preterm labour along with steroid injections to jump-start the biology of the baby and prepare him/her for the world outside if he/she arrives early.
- Shortened cervix: The cervix helps the uterus to remain closed till it is time for delivery. But, in some instances, the cervix may thin down due to cervical insufficiency leading to early birth. MFMs can treat this phenomenon with medications or resort to surgery for preventing early birth.
- Cerclage – In some instances, thinning cervix can be strengthened through surgery. The procedure involves sewing up the cervix to close it either via an abdominal incision or through the vagina to arrest pregnancy loss. Minimally invasive techniques are used by some surgeons for this procedure and can include robotic-assisted methods.
- MFMs can also address other issues that could potentially cause pre-term birth, and particularly so when the mother had earlier instance/s of pre-term delivery.
Issues Related To High Blood Pressure
Hormones help to lower the blood pressure in healthy pregnancies to direct oxygen and food to the foetus. However, in some instances, a pregnant woman can experience higher blood pressure due to signals coming from the placenta triggering gestational hypertension, eclampsia or preeclampsia and the like.
Bleeding: The function of the placenta during pregnancy is to deliver vital nutrients and eliminate waste from the growing foetus. Post birth, a healthy placenta will detach from the uterus and moves out of the body of the mother. The mother may experience bleeding when the placenta sits over the cervix or when it starts detaching before birthing.
Issues Related To Maternal Health
Pre-existing health issues can impact pregnancy and can include high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney ailments. MFMs can monitor these pregnancies and provide expert guidance on medication to manage the medical problems of the mother with minimum risk to her baby.
An MFM help is also sought in instances where the mother suffers from infectious disorders such as:-
- Hepatitis A, B, or C
- Rare infections
Thus, the role of an MFM or maternal-fetal medicine specialist is more relevant in instances of a high-risk pregnancy or other complications during pregnancy or birthing that your OB/Gynec may want an expert opinion on. Most MFMs practice in association with other OBs/Gynecs in a given geography and seldom take charge of an entire pregnancy or postnatal care.