Maternal Fetal Medicine
A subspecialty of obstetrics, Maternal Fetal Medicine (also MFM, or perinatology) provides care for the baby and mother throughout the perinatal stage, that is, from the time of pregnancy until about a year after giving birth.
How can MFM help my pregnancy?
The Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist is the expert in providing optimised care for the baby and mother, monitoring the wellbeing of both, and managing any complications that may arise.
Maternal Fetal Medicine primarily supports and treats complex or high risk pregnancies. However, in cases of normal pregnancy, the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist is also the certified physician to perform important screenings and tests for mothers and babies.
When should I look for a MFM specialist?
Expecting mothers should seek the advice of, or be referred to the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist when there are any conditions, complications, or risk factors that may cause health problems before, during, or after delivery.
What are some of the conditions or risk factors that MFM can help improve?
Advanced Maternal Age
A woman pregnant over the age of 35 is at an increased risk for problems such as miscarriage, gestational hypertension, multiple birth, gestational diabetes, difficult labour, birth defects, and chromosome abnormalities that lead to disorders such as Down syndrome.
Pre-Existing Health Issue
Women with conditions such as pre-existing hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, kidney diseases, thyroid diseases, etc. may need close control of their medication, diet changes, and additional treatment to ensure a safe pregnancy.
Pre-Existing Heart Disease
Having a heart condition, even if it has never shown symptoms or adversely affected normal life, can cause issues during pregnancy.
Pregnancy stresses the heart and the circulatory system by producing more blood and working hard to pump it through the mother’s body, which can cause changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac output.
Obesity during pregnancy increases risks of many complications, such as gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, fetal macrosomia (baby being larger than average), higher incidence of congenital defects, and the need for caesarean delivery, among others.
Complicated Pregnancy History
Women who have experienced preterm labour, miscarriage, cervical insufficiency, having a child with birth defects, familial hereditary genetic disorders, or other pregnancy-related complications are more likely to experience problems in subsequent pregnancies.
Twins, triplets, quadruplets, and other multiple birth babies have a higher risk of congenital defects, more likely to be preterm, more likely to cause postpartum haemorrhage in the mother, and other common conditions such as gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes.
Placenta Previa or Placenta Accreta Spectrum
When the baby’s placenta covers the mother’s cervix (the neck of the womb), the mother may bleed spontaneously or under mild trauma (during vaginal examination or sexual intercourse), albeit painlessly throughout the pregnancy with severity ranging from spotting to massive haemorrhage, which makes close monitoring necessary. In case of a scarred uterus either from a previous caesarean section, dilation and curettage (to remove tissue inside the uterus), myomectomy (to remove fibroids from the uterus), the risk of Placenta Accreta spectrum rises.
About 2% to 3% of all babies have a minor to major structural problem in development. Some can be detected with ultrasound scans and confirmed by further tests, after which the treatment may focus on managing symptoms, reducing chances of stillbirth and preserving the child’s health, development, and quality of life.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
The use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs increases risks of fetal defects, fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, fetal demise, preterm births, neonatal withdrawal symptoms, sudden infant death syndrome and long-term problems as the child grows.
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Baby photo created by tirachardz at freepik