A Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist is a physician who is dedicated to the care of complicated pregnancies. While often referred to as “high risk” pregnancy experts, this nomenclature is not generally informative of the training and expertise of the providers and can be used to imply specialization when not present.
A general OB/GYN is a residency trained specialist in the care of women, which includes both gynecologic and obstetrical services as well as some surgical interventions. A Maternal Medicine specialist is a fellowship trained (i.e. additional three years) specialist after completing an OB/GYN training program which focuses primarily on the treatment of complex maternal and fetal problems during pregnancy. The additional years of training also allow for these subspecialists to often be involved in teaching, research, and establishment of clinical obstetrical management guidelines, and the use of advanced ultrasound technology to evaluate fetal anatomy and physiology. Clinical care for patients by maternal fetal medicine specialist may be provided directly to patients including delivery care, as well as functioning on a health care team and in a co-management fashion with other care providers in complicated cases to provide medical advice but not actually delivering the pregnancy. When working with Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists it’s important to clarify their role in your care as either primary caregivers vs consultants.
After completion of training, both OB/GYNs and Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists have the opportunity to become “board certified” in either their specialty and/or subspecialty after two years of clinical experience post training. The American Board of Medical Examiners certifies physicians that they have met nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience, and skills to provide the high-quality care in their specialty. There are both written and oral examinations for both the residency specialty training and fellowship training with ongoing annual certification evaluations to make sure Board Certified doctors continuously refresh and expand their knowledge. To check your physician’s status regarding their stated board certification credentials the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology provides an easily accessible search system on their website (https://www.abog.org/new/default.aspx).
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!