Maternal Fetal Medical Specialist: What is a Perinatologist

Perinatologist

When an obstetrician refers you to a perinatologist for a consultation, you may be confused, afraid, and worried. Something may be wrong with your pregnancy, and your obstetrician feels that a specialist is necessary. Rest assured that this consultation appointment is necessary, and in most cases, your pregnancy could not be in better hands.

Who is a Perinatologist in the Management of a High Risk Pregnancy?

A perinatologist is an obstetrician with additional training in high risk pregnancy complications. A perinatologist will usually see a patient by referral from an obstetrician only, and works in partnership with the primary care obstetrician in the management of a high risk pregnancy. Patients in need of the assistance of a perinatologist can include those with a history of pregnancy loss, advanced maternal age, blood clotting disorders, incompetent cervix, sever cases of gestational diabetes, multiple fetus gestations, fetus with spina bifida, preeclampsia, and many other complications of pregnancy.

In some cases, the perinatologist may replace the primary obstetrician and see the patient throughout the pregnancy. A perinatologist has the additional training and specialized equipment necessary to more closely monitor a high risk pregnancy than an obstetrician has available often including in-office high-resolution ultrasound and stress test equipment.

What to Expect During a Visit with a Perinatologist

Perinatologists treat a wide variety of high risk pregnancies, and many of their patients have experienced a pregnancy loss. For this reason, the doctors and staff are well versed in comfort, reassurance, and hand holding. Dr. Mark Evans in the article New Frontiers in Fetal Surgery says, “There’s probably nothing worse that can happen to a family than to lose a child. We’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of women who have lost a baby – and it always has an effect. That’s one of the things that drives us…”

Depending on the stage of pregnancy the patient is in, and the type of complication being experienced, the first visit can be unpredictable. Many women are introduced to their perinatologist in a hospital room in the midst of a pregnancy emergency like preterm labor. Amidst the shock and dismay of the emergency, the woman discovers she has a new doctor on the team and her chosen obstetrician may or may not be a part of this new team.

Planned visits with a perinatologist are a little more predictable. On staff in many perinatologist’s offices is a geneticist, and many patients spend a few minutes giving their medical history to the geneticist on their first visit to asses the risk for potential genetic problems. The first visit is about reviewing your history, discussing your obstetrician’s concerns that have brought you to this visit, and about establishing a plan. Expect the perinatologist to create a detailed plan of testing, monitoring, and intervention to give your pregnancy the best possible outcome.

A high risk pregnancy is never easy and is rarely predictable. It may be a surprise turn in a seemingly normal pregnancy that lands you in the high risk category, or because of your medical history, it may be a high risk pregnancy from the first day. Regardless of the complication, or the stage of pregnancy in which you find yourself, in the care of a qualified perinatologist is where you want to be when your pregnancy is labeled high risk.

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