What is maternal fetal medicine care?

Maternal fetal medicine is specialized care for women who are experiencing what is considered a high-risk pregnancy. The focus of maternal fetal medicine is to help families achieve the healthiest outcome possible for both mother and baby.

What is a high-risk pregnancy and who is a candidate for maternal fetal medicine care?

Pregnant women may be referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist if they have a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, a pregnancy at higher risk for complications such as twins, or an unanticipated pregnancy complication such as preterm labor or preeclampsia.

Sometimes a woman may be referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist due to a previous complicated pregnancy or for a consultation prior to another pregnancy to review risks and establish a plan of care for a future pregnancy.

What is a maternal fetal medicine specialist?

A maternal fetal medicine specialist is a board-certified physician who completed a four-year obstetrics and gynecology fellowship and a three-year maternal fetal medicine fellowship. A maternal fetal medicine specialist has expertise in prenatal diagnosis such as ultrasound and genetic testing, management of maternal medical complications, and pregnancies with obstetric complications such as preterm labor and preeclampsia.

Based on the nature of the high-risk condition and the model of care, when the time comes, either the obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine specialist will deliver the baby.

What can I expect in a consultation with a maternal fetal medicine physician?

Depending on the reason for the referral, the consultation may include a detailed fetal ultrasound, a detailed medical and pregnancy history, and/or a physical examination. Your maternal fetal medicine specialist will then discuss with you a plan of care to help achieve the healthiest outcome for you and your baby.

How frequently will I have to see my maternal fetal medicine specialist?

The frequency of visits will depend on the reason for referral. Sometimes it only requires one visit to set forth a plan of care. Other times, the reason for referral may require ongoing care and follow-up for either mom, baby, or both.

The frequency of visits is usually reviewed at the initial consultation appointment, so you know what to expect going forward throughout your pregnancy. In addition, you will have continued follow up care with your obstetrician.

Who else might I see during a maternal fetal medicine appointment?

The maternal fetal medicine specialist works closely with a specialized team. Highly trained perinatal ultrasound technicians (sonographers), genetic counselors and nurses work together to provide individualized care for high-risk mothers and their babies.

My obstetrician referred me to an obstetric medicine specialist. Why might I need a maternal fetal medicine specialist as well?

An obstetric medicine specialist and a maternal fetal medicine specialist care for pregnant women with the same goal in mind – a healthy pregnancy and delivery for both mom and baby.  

Obstetric medicine physicians completed internal medicine training followed by a three-year obstetric and consultative medicine fellowship. Their primary focus is on the care of pregnant women with medical complications or problems during the pregnancy. Obstetric medicine is a specialty that is unique to this region.

As an example, a woman with gestational diabetes will likely see an obstetric medicine specialist to manage her blood sugars, make dietary changes, and learn how to administer insulin if needed.

This same woman will also likely see a maternal fetal medicine specialist to monitor the growth and development of the baby since it is not uncommon for the baby of a diabetic mother to grow larger than expected for their gestational age.

The specialists work together, along with the obstetrician, and pediatric neonatal experts when needed, to provide a comprehensive team approach to care. 

What can I expect following delivery?

In addition to your postpartum follow-up visit with the obstetrician, you will likely see your obstetric medicine specialist for a follow-up visit. In some cases, mom’s medical condition needs care for a bit longer. If needed, the obstetric medicine specialist will discuss appropriate follow-up care by a primary care provider. As well, the mom may be seen by the maternal fetal medicine specialist to discuss considerations for future pregnancies.

What if I am not pregnant now, but planning a pregnancy and have concerns because of an existing medical condition?

Both maternal fetal medicine and obstetric medicine specialists offer preconception consultations for women who are considering pregnancy but have concerns due to preexisting medical, obstetrical, or genetic health conditions.

Having a maternal fetal medicine specialist as part of your pregnancy care team can help you feel confident that you and your baby are getting the best care possible.

Learn more about our maternal fetal medicine center.

Leah Battista, MD

Leah Battista, MD

Leah Battista, MD, is a maternal fetal medicine specialist in the Maternal Fetal Medicine program at the Women’s Medicine Collaborative.