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What is Perinatology?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Perinatology is a branch of obstetrics which focuses on the critical timespan between slightly before and shortly after birth. The services of a perinatologist are used when a pregnancy is considered high risk. These specialists usually work in a hospital environment providing medical and surgical care to expecting mothers and babies, and they may work side by side with genetic counselors, regular obstetricians, and other medical specialists who can provide supportive care.

This field is also known as maternal-fetal medicine. Before birth, a perinatologist can conduct genetic tests and other exams to determine the health of the fetus and estimate the risk of complications. He or she can also provide medical management of a pregnancy if it is considered high risk, as might be the case in a multiple pregnancy, or a pregnancy in which the mother has a chronic illness or is of advanced age. The perinatologist's goal is to ensure that the pregnancy runs as smoothly as possible.

These medical specialists can also provide care during labor and delivery. Perinatology includes conventional vaginal delivery, interventional c-sections, and other procedures which may be conducted to make the labor and delivery safer for mother and baby. After the birth, a perinatologist will examine the baby, and make recommendations for care which can include the administration of medications or the performance of surgery to repair congenital birth defects.

Specialists in perinatology start out in an obstetrics and gynecology residency, eventually narrowing their focus to the perinatal period, which is generally defined as the time from five months before delivery to around a month after birth. Perinatology requires an extensive knowledge of fetal development and the numerous complications which can develop, in addition to obstetrics and surgical skills.

When a woman has a high risk pregnancy, she will usually be referred to a perinatologist for care. This ensures that both the mother and the developing fetus get the best possible medical care, with early interventions for emerging medical problems, and the experience of a skilled physician who can address specific concerns and issues. A specialist in perinatology can also be part of the medical team involved in infertility treatment.

Working with a perinatologist can increase the chances of a positive outcome in a high risk pregnancy, but no guarantees can be made. Pregnancy is complex, and a number of conditions and random events can have an impact on a pregnancy, making it impossible to predict the way in which things will turn out.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon975546 — On Oct 27, 2014

What is the best milk to give to a two week old baby? Please help.

By burcinc — On Jul 09, 2011

Are perintology specialists also interested in the social or economic situation of mothers?

I feel that mothers with low incomes and less social opportunities like education and health insurance experience more health problems during their pregnancy. It would be nice if perinatology looked into those issues and directed women to the right organizations for assistance.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 09, 2011

I think that perinatology is needed for all pregnancies regardless of whether there is a risk of complications or not. After all, all pregnant women and their partners need some education about pregnancy, birth and care of the infant, especially if it's the first pregnancy.

The perinatologists that work at our hospital give couples insights on the mother's nutrition, exercise and work schedules during and after the pregnancy.

Unfortunately there are still women who are unaware about the risks of consuming caffeine and alcohol, smoking and taking medications and illegal drugs during pregnancy. Perinatologists know exactly what those risks are and what the consequences may be and they can educate mothers-to-be about them.

By ysmina — On Jul 08, 2011

My mom was under the care of a perinatologist when she was pregnant with me because my mom and dad had Rh incompatibility. My mom's blood type is B Rh- and my dad's is B Rh+. When this is the case, the mother's body produces antibodies after the first birth which then can cause the body to reject the baby at second birth.

Many people told my mom not to have a second child, but she really wanted to have me. When she decided she is going to give birth, she was directed to perinatologist right away because it is such a high risk pregnancy. There was a high chance of miscarriage.

To everyone's surprise, everything went well and I was born healthy. The perinatologist must have done a good job!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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