Perinatal Care: What to Expect

It can be very intimidating to suddenly learn one day that your pregnancy has been labeled high risk. Every woman hopes for a smooth pregnancy, so learning that there may be complications involved can cause a lot of stress for an expectant mother. Not knowing what the next steps in your care involve can add extra worry. For example, if you recently learned that you need to see a perinatologist for your high-risk pregnancy care, you may have questions about what perinatology entails. Learning about what to expect from your perinatal care can help you be prepared to work with maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists and put you in a better place to take care of your and your baby’s health during and after your pregnancy. Here are some things you need to know before going to your first appointment.

High-Risk Pregnancy: An Explanation

There are certain medical conditions and complications that a mother or fetus may face that can lead to a higher risk of medical complications before, during, and after labor. Some of these conditions may include birth defects, pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, multiple gestations, or a risk of pre-term birth. Even becoming pregnant over the age of 35 can create a high-risk pregnancy. Some mothers develop what is known as gestational diabetes while pregnant, which is another medical concern that can cause a complicated pregnancy. Once a pregnancy is at risk of causing medical complications, it becomes labeled high risk. At this point, an OB/GYN will let a mother know if perinatal care is required.

Definition of Perinatal Care

Perinatal care is delivered by an MFM specialist. An MFM specialist is an obstetric physician specially trained to treat and work with patients facing high-risk pregnancies. Perinatologists can work with patients to diagnose, treat, and manage health concerns such as the ones listed above, as well as issues that arise in emergency situations. Another important quality that MFM specialists possess is the ability to work with a patient’s entire obstetric care team to manage the mother’s and fetus’s perinatal care in a way that makes a positive outcome more likely.

What to Expect

From your first perinatal appointment onward, finding ways to improve the outcome of your pregnancy will be the focus of your care. Prenatal health screening is likely to take place and could involve genetic counseling such as amniocentesis. Fetal diagnostic testing, such as 3D ultrasounds or echocardiograms, may be ordered to evaluate any concerns that arose during screening. If nutrition is a matter that has been discussed, counseling services may be provided in order to help you make the best nutritional choices for you and your growing baby. For example, Valley Perinatal Services completes one-on-one nutrition counseling between expectant mothers and certified nurse practitioners, supplemented by comprehensive written action plans personalized based on patient histories and needs. If gestational diabetes has been diagnosed, your perinatal care team will help you find ways to manage your health to minimize complications from the condition.

No woman wants to hear that her pregnancy is high risk, but understanding what a good, professional perinatal care team does will help you be prepared to minimize complications and increase the chance of positive outcomes before, during, and after labor. This can reassure you that your and your baby’s care is in good hands and empower you to make the best health choices possible during your pregnancy.

Are you an expectant mother facing a high-risk pregnancy? Speak to your obstetric care provider about co-managing your care with our dedicated MFM specialists at Arizona’s Valley Perinatal Services. You can contact us online or via phone at (480) 756-6000.