What is perinatology?

Perinatology is a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology that focuses on complicated, high-risk pregnancies. Perinatology is also known as maternal-fetal medicine.

What is a perinatologist?

A perinatologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist who has completed specialty training needed to understand and treat complex medical problems relating to pregnancy that can involve the mother and her unborn baby. These problems may be obstetrical, medical, surgical and/or genetic complications, and may occur during pregnancy, childbirth, the postnatal and/or postpartum periods. A perinatologist is also called a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

The main competencies of a perinatologist include:

  • diagnosing and treating women with pregnancy complications
  • managing a woman's medical conditions as they relate to her pregnancy
  • managing a pregnancy as it relates to a woman's pre-existing medical conditions

A perinatologist is often referred to a patient by the primary obstetrician, who believes the patient will benefit from the consultations, treatments and risk management provided by this specialist physician. The perinatologist will work in consultation with the primary obstetrician. The extent of the relationship between both doctors varies depending on the condition of the patient.

A perinatologist is also considered to be an educator and a researcher of cutting-edge methods for diagnosing and treating obstetrical problems and is, therefore, a sought after lecturer and information resource.

Medical Conditions and Diseases

Perinatologists deal with many risk factors that may adversely impact the mother and/or her unborn baby. Listed below are a few examples:

  • preterm labor
  • pre-eclampsia
  • multifetal gestations
  • previous pregnancy problems (such as cervical incompetence and miscarriage)
  • diabetes (both gestational and pre-gestational)
  • cardiovascular disease
  • chronic renal disease
  • chronic hypertension
  • congenital disorders (such as cystic fibrosis)
  • neurological disorders (such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis)
  • infectious diseases (such as herpes, hepatitis, HIV and AIDS)
  • family medical history
  • eating disorders
  • substance abuse

Perinatal Procedures

General perinatal procedures include:

  • obstetric ultrasound
  • level 2 ultrasound
  • genetic amniocentesis
  • chorionic villus sampling
  • cervical cerclage
  • abdominal cerclage
  • antenatal corticosteroid therapy
  • cell-free fetal DNA

Perinatologists with expertise in fetal diagnosis
and treatment can perform advanced procedures such as:

  • fetal blood sampling
  • fetal blood transfusion
  • fetal gene therapy
  • fetal surgery
  • fetoscopy
  • multifetal reductions

Perinatology-related Associations

  • American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology
    "The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology is an independent, non-profit organization that certifies obstetricians and gynecologists in the United States."
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    "ACOG is the nation's leading group of physicians providing health care for women. With 55,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality care for women."
  • British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society
    "The British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society aims to improve the standard of pregnancy care by disseminating knowledge, promoting and funding research, contributing to the development and implementation of high quality training, and providing a forum where issues relevant to pregnancy care are discussed."
  • British Association of Perinatal Medicine
    "Our aim is to support newborn babies and their families by providing services that help all those involved in perinatal practice to improve the standards of perinatal care in the British Isles."
  • European Association of Perinatal Medicine
    "The purpose of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine is to bring together groups and individuals in a European organisation in order to promote the science of perinatal medicine for the benefit of a high level of physical and mental health for women, mothers and their children in Europe."
  • National Perinatal Assocation
    "The National Perinatal Association promotes the health and well being of mothers and infants enriching families, communities and our world."
  • Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
    "The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) encourages the study and advancement of the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. We do this through postgraduate medical education and training development, and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision. The RCOG International Office works with other international organisations to help lower maternal morbidity and mortality in under-resourced countries."
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
    "The RANZCOG will pursue excellence in the delivery of health care to women and their families throughout their lives."
  • Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology
    "The mission of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology is to improve the pregnancy-related outcomes of women and neonates through the support of obstetric anesthesiology research, the provision of education to its members, other providers, and pregnant women, and the promotion of excellence in clinical anesthetic care."
  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
    "The mission of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada "is to promote excellence in the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology and to advance the health of women through leadership, advocacy, collaboration, outreach and education."
  • Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
    "The SMFM is a Society of physicians and scientists who are dedicated to the optimization of pregnancy and perinatal outcomes."