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What is a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist?

What is a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist?

By Scott W. Rallison, MD

Dec 11, 2018

Updated Jul 13, 2023

5 min read

What is a maternal fetal medicine specialist

When you have a high-risk or complicated pregnancy, your OB/GYN has probably recommended you add a perinatologist or maternal fetal medicine specialist (MFM) to your team of doctors for the duration of your pregnancy. Although it can be comforting to have one more set of eyes watching your pregnancy progress, the additional time and cost of seeing a specialist may leave you wondering if it’s really necessary.

Pregnancy is hard enough with all of your regular doctor appointments. Adding more appointments might feel overwhelming. Knowing what a maternal fetal medicine specialist can do for you can help you get through yet another doctor’s appointment as you progress through your pregnancy.

Why do you need a MFM doctor?

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, chances are good you’d benefit from seeing a maternal fetal medicine specialist. These doctors are obstetricians who have three additional years of training in helping women through high-risk pregnancies. Women with a history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, seizure disorders, autoimmune diseases, blood clotting disorders, or infections will benefit from the expertise of a MFM doctor.

You may also need a maternal fetal medicine specialist if you’ve had problems with a pregnancy in the past, you need special tests or procedures, or you or your baby develops problems anytime during your pregnancy (such as a birth defect). Women carrying more than one baby will also need to see an MFM specialist.

What can a MFM specialist help you with?

Your MFM doctor will help to monitor your prenatal care throughout your high-risk pregnancy. They may also do the following:

  • Perform tests and procedures like ultrasounds that can help monitor your baby as they develop.
  • Check for genetic disorders and birth defects by performing tests such as amniocentesis, umbilical cord sampling, or chorionic villus sampling.
  • Help you manage any preexisting conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Diagnose and manage birth defects or other conditions that are developing in your baby.
  • Monitor labor and delivery as needed by your OB/GYN.
  • Manage your care and health problems after your pregnancy ends (such as infections, high blood pressure, or excessive bleeding).

Will you have to stop seeing your OB/GYN?

If your OB/GYN wants you to add a MFM doctor to your pregnancy team, does that mean you’ll have to give up your OB/GYN? No! Instead, your medical team throughout your pregnancy will just expand to include the MFM specialist. Your OB/GYN will let you know how often they want you to see the MFM specialist. In some cases, the MFM doctor will be very involved in your care, and in others, you may just see them occasionally or as needed. Often, your OB/GYN will still be the doctor who delivers your baby.

As a woman who’s experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, having a maternal-fetal medicine specialist on your team can be comforting. MFM specialists are trained to help manage both your health and the health of your baby throughout your pregnancy. They’ll help both of you be safer and healthier.