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Perinatologists and pregnancy

A perinatologist, a specialist in maternal-fetal health, is an obstetrician who has received further specialized training in high risk pregnancies.

This training usually includes a two or three year clinical and research fellowship and advanced training in comprehensive diagnostic ultrasound imaging of the fetus.

What is a perinatologist?

Perinatologists are taught to look for abnormalities in the head and neck of the fetus, and examine the development of the spine, heart, chest and diaphragm, stomach, kidneys and bladder, abdominal wall and umbilical cordA flexible structure that connects the fetus to the placenta during pregnancy. It carries blood, oxygen, nourishment and waste to the placenta. It is first formed during the fifth week of pregnancy and contains the yolk sac and body stalk.
Visit our comprehensive glossary for more pregnancy terms and definitions.
, placentaThe placenta is a large disk shaped membrane responsible for providing nourishment to the fetus during pregnancy. It consists of three parts, the fetal part made up from the chorion membrane surrounding the fetus, the maternal part, formed from the decidua basalis layer of the uterine lining, and the intervillous space between the two plates. It is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord and consists of tissue from both the mother and the embryo.
Its function is complex. It has been described as a simple organ that combines the functions of a kidney-dialysis machine, heart and lung machine and intravenous drip. It consists of enormous numbers of blood vessel branches that permit the exchange of nutrition and oxygen, from the mother's bloodstream to the fetus and the removal of wastes to the mother to be excreted. The placenta's remarkable quality is that it does so without the blood of the mother mixing with that of the baby.
It also is responsible for the production of vital hormones including, estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin. After birth, the placenta is delivered, and is sometimes referred to as the afterbirth.
Visit our comprehensive glossary for more pregnancy terms and definitions.
and the volume of Amniotic fluidThe liquid, which is produced by both the fetal membranes and the fetus that surrounds the baby during pregnancy. The liter of fluid at term serves to protect the fetus during pregnancy and also provide active chemical exchange.
The amniotic fluid consists of maternal and fetal plasma in varying concentrations. The pH of the fluid is almost neutral and clear, although lipids and desquamated fetal cells can make it cloudy.
Visit our comprehensive glossary for more pregnancy terms and definitions.
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Who needs a perinatologist?

You will be referred to a perinatologist if your obstetrician feels that you are experiencing serious problems in your pregnancy or if you had problems in previous pregnancies. Perinatologists are capable of making complicated diagnoses and performing difficult procedures such as amniocentesis and cordocentesis. In rare cases perinatologists can administer medication across the placentaThe placenta is a large disk shaped membrane responsible for providing nourishment to the fetus during pregnancy. It consists of three parts, the fetal part made up from the chorion membrane surrounding the fetus, the maternal part, formed from the decidua basalis layer of the uterine lining, and the intervillous space between the two plates. It is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord and consists of tissue from both the mother and the embryo.
Its function is complex. It has been described as a simple organ that combines the functions of a kidney-dialysis machine, heart and lung machine and intravenous drip. It consists of enormous numbers of blood vessel branches that permit the exchange of nutrition and oxygen, from the mother's bloodstream to the fetus and the removal of wastes to the mother to be excreted. The placenta's remarkable quality is that it does so without the blood of the mother mixing with that of the baby.
It also is responsible for the production of vital hormones including, estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin. After birth, the placenta is delivered, and is sometimes referred to as the afterbirth.
Visit our comprehensive glossary for more pregnancy terms and definitions.
or Amniotic fluidThe liquid, which is produced by both the fetal membranes and the fetus that surrounds the baby during pregnancy. The liter of fluid at term serves to protect the fetus during pregnancy and also provide active chemical exchange.
The amniotic fluid consists of maternal and fetal plasma in varying concentrations. The pH of the fluid is almost neutral and clear, although lipids and desquamated fetal cells can make it cloudy.
Visit our comprehensive glossary for more pregnancy terms and definitions.
to correct a problem before the baby is delivered. Fortunately only ten percent of pregnant women need to consult with a perinatologist.

Depending on the severity of the complication, the perinatologist may also be required to deliver the baby. The delivery will be planned and coordinated by the perinatologist, and according to the location of the perinatologist, you may be required to change your plans and deliver your baby in a different hospital containing highly specialized equipment and facilities. If there is a need for a neonatologist, a specialist in the care of the newborn, the perinatologist will consult with the neonatal care team to develop the plan for specialized care immediately after birth.

Perinatologists can provide anxious parents with detailed news and information and answer specific questions and concerns, especially regarding the different options for care of a child with complications. In their role at the center of a pregnancy with complications, the perinatologist can work to bring together a team of caregivers including the primary care physician, neonatal care specialists, pediatric surgeons and pediatric cardiologists to ensure the successful birth of a high-risk baby.


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