Maternal-fetal medicine specialist help ensure a healthy pregnancy
Early in her pregnancy, Carrie Stuart* got the news she had been praying for: A routine ultrasound revealed she was expecting identical twins.
“My husband, Carl, and I were so excited,” says Stuart, 32. “I’ve seen the special bond that twins share—my mother is a twin and so are my nieces. I wanted that closeness for our children too.”
A registered nurse, Stuart also understood that her twins (like all multiples) shared unique health and developmental risks before and after birth, including higher odds for growth challenges, tangled umbilical cords, amniotic fluid problems, early delivery, and low birth weight. Carrying multiples also raised Stuart’s own risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
When her obstetrician recommended consulting a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to ensure a healthy pregnancy, Stuart agreed. Physicians Mary Mulligan, MD, and Jack Barry, MD, of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Services (MFMS), affiliated with General Hospital, tracked the twins’ progress and Stuart’s health closely through the rest of her pregnancy.
“The doctors were concerned that I might go into labor very early,” Stuart says. “Every additional week of growth in the womb for the twins became a milestone. The whole staff cheered us on. They were very kind and gave us top-notch care, keeping my own obstetrician informed every step of the way.”
On Feb. 6, 2016, Hank and Victor Stuart were delivered by Stuart’s obstetrician. “Our girls were healthy and beautiful—born at nearly 37 weeks,” Stuart says. “Dr. Mulligan and Dr. Barry worked so closely with my own obstetrician that I was always confident I was in very good hands.”
Special Care, Close to Home
Established in 2013, MFMD provides advanced care for a wide range of routine and complicated pregnancies.
“A pregnancy may be considered high risk for a range of reasons, including if a woman is older; has a pre-existing health condition such as asthma, lupus or diabetes; or develops a health issue during pregnancy,” Dr. Mulligan explains. “Maternal-fetal medicine specialists also work with women who are carrying multiples, who develop complications during pregnancy, or whose babies have birth defects or genetic anomalies. We take care of the mother and her baby (or babies).”
Accredited by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), MFMS offers the region’s most advanced ultrasound system, in addition to providing a wide range of monitoring and testing options.
“All fetal ultrasounds are not the same, and MFMS uses the best machines for fetal evaluation,” Dr. Mulligan explains.
“Our practice employs specially trained ultrasound technologists. Most of our moms experience routine pregnancies, and their babies grow normally; however, our goal is to catch problems early and incorporate the best scientific evidence into a treatment plan for maternal and fetal care.
“We also provide genetic counseling and screening if needed so that parents and doctors know what to expect and what care will be needed before and after a baby is born,” Dr. Mulligan adds.
The MFMS maternal-fetal medicine specialists no longer deliver babies; their focus is pregnancy itself.
“We are obstetrician/gynecologists with four years of OB/GYN training plus three years of specialized training in prenatal diagnosis, genetics, ultrasound diagnosis, and the management of high-risk pregnancies,” Dr. Barry says. “We work with a variety of healthcare providers, including a woman’s own obstetrician, midwife and other specialists. We coordinate care with a woman’s obstetrician for an optimal pregnancy and delivery, and to plan for care after birth for babies who may need to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or require medical treatment.”
MFMS is within easy driving distance of many communities in the area. Now, MFMS and General Hospital plan to expand these important services by adding an MFM specialist—making this specialty care convenient for even more mothers-to-be.
“Families appreciate that they don’t have to travel several hours to see a specialist face to face for exams, advanced ultrasound checks and other monitoring, and for careful, in-person assessment of test results by a specialist,” Dr. Mulligan notes.
Testing and Measuring
When Kathleen Marks, 39, became pregnant in her late 30s, her obstetrician also recommended adding Dr. Mulligan and Dr. Barry to her care team.
“As an older mom, I was considered higher risk for issues such as Down syndrome,” explains Marks, head softball coach at the local university. “Early tests were normal, but the doctors recommended a more advanced blood test for trisomies [extra chromosomes] that can predict Down syndrome and other conditions. It came back positive.”
The maternal-fetal medicine specialists followed her son’s growth with careful measurements. Following fetal growth is important since placental failure can lead to stillbirth, which may be avoided by an early delivery.
“They tracked our son’s bones, his heart, his head, and much more, and they looked for early signs of developmental problems that could affect him throughout his life,” she says.
“If Dr. Barry hadn’t suggested that test, we would not have been ready for our son’s special needs. It could have been devastating. The team did a wonderful job preparing me and my spouse, Bethany.”
Milo Marks was born in the summer of 2016. At 6 months old, he was rolling over, eating mashed avocado and sleeping through the night. “He has the most infectious smile,” Marks says. “It would brighten anyone’s day.”
Caring for Moms, Dads and Babies
General Hospital offers advanced care for mothers-to-be and their babies at every stage of pregnancy, labor and delivery.
- Level III NICU: General Hospital has the region’s only level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and is equipped to care for babies as young as 25 weeks gestational age. In addition, it is one of the only NICUs in the area with private rooms for babies and their families.
- Birthing rooms and suites: Spacious labor/delivery/postpartum rooms at General Hospital provide the comforts of home in a medical setting.
- Board-certified obstetricians and certified nurse midwives: A range of care options, including holistic and emotional care, are available at General Hospital.
- Lactation consultants: Board-certified lactation consultants provide assistance, support and information on nursing your new baby.
- OB/GYN hospitalist program: Obstetrician/gynecologists on staff at General Hospital care for pregnant women admitted to the hospital for any reason—including emergency care in Labor and Delivery.
- Classes: Prepare for your child’s arrival with classes in parenting, childbirth and breastfeeding.
*Based on a true story. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.