What Is an MFM Specialist?

A maternal-fetal medicine specialist is a doctor who helps take care of women having complicated or high-risk pregnancies. These doctors are obstetricians who also completed 3 extra years of training in high-risk pregnancy. They are also called perinatologists and high-risk pregnancy doctors.

What an MFM Doctor Does

An MFM doctor:

  • Gives regular prenatal care for women with high-risk pregnancies
  • Helps manage the mother's existing health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Cares for women who develop complications during pregnancy or childbirth
  • Does tests and procedures, such as ultrasound, to check your babies' growth and development
  • Checks for birth defects and genetic disorders with tests such as amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or umbilical cord sampling
  • Diagnoses and manages birth defects, heart problems, and blood disorders in a developing baby, including performing surgery if needed
  • Monitors labor and handles the delivery
  • Manages any of the mom's health problems after pregnancy, such as excessive bleeding, infections, or high blood pressure
  • Identifies risks and provides recommendations for future pregnancies

Why You Might Need an MFM Doctor

You might see an MFM doctor if you have a high-risk pregnancy or are worried about having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. You may be high risk if:

Your MFM specialist can also help if:

  • You need special tests or procedures
  • You or your babies develop problems while you are pregnant
  • Your babies have a birth defect or other abnormal finding on ultrasound

Working with an MFM specialist during your pregnancy can help you feel confident that you and your baby are getting the best care possible.

How an MFM Doctor Works With Your Pregnancy Team

Depending on your situation, the MFM doctor may manage your care directly or consult with other providers on your team. An MFM specialist may:

  • Provide most of your prenatal care
  • Work hand in hand with your OB, family doctor, or midwife to comanage your care
  • Consult with your midwife or doctor as needed
  • Consult and work with neonatologists or other pediatric experts to make sure your babies get the care they need

An MFM specialist will work closely with you and your regular health providers to see you safely through labor and delivery.

Continued

How to Choose a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, choosing an MFM specialist to provide your prenatal care is an important step.

Your OB, family doctor, or midwife can refer you to a few MFM specialists. This list of questions can help you find the MFM specialist who's right for you:

  • Does the doctor have a good reputation?
  • How long has the MFM specialist been in practice?
  • How does the MFM specialist manage pain during delivery?
  • Are you comfortable with the MFM specialist's views about when to induce labor or perform a C-section?
  • Does the doctor listen to you and explain things clearly?
  • Is your partner comfortable with this doctor?
  • Will the MFM specialist be in town around your due date?
  • Will a maternal-fetal medicine doctor be actually delivering my baby or will my primary OB/GYN still do that?
  • Who covers for the MFM specialist when they are not available?
  • If another doctor might handle the delivery, can you meet them beforehand?
  • What hospital is the MFM specialist affiliated with?
  • Does your insurance cover this doctor's services?
  • Is the staff pleasant and helpful?
  • Is the office location convenient?
  • How are emergencies and after-hour calls handled?
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on March 19, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

 American Board of Medical Specialties: "About Physician Specialties. Obstetrics and Gynecology."

March of Dimes: "Choosing Your Prenatal Care Provider."

The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the SMFM Foundation: "Maternal-Fetal Medicine. High-Risk Pregnancy Care, Research and Education for Over 35 Years."

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine: "What is Maternal-Fetal Medicine?"

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