All You Need to Know About Fetal Medicine and Its Importance
Whether you are expecting a child or planning to become pregnant, one thing remains constant: the baby’s and the mother’s health come first. Fetal medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the development and health of the foetus. This field of medicine is important because it allows healthcare providers to identify and address the problems in the foetus. Advances in fetal medicine have also made it possible to perform various procedures, such as prenatal surgery, to help improve the foetus’s health before birth.
The field has grown rapidly, with technological advances and new treatments available to expectant mothers and their unborn children. Here are a few facts and things you need to know about fetal medicines.
Fetal medicine, also known as maternal-fetal medicine (MFM), is concerned with the mother’s and fetus’s health before, during, and after pregnancy. Fetal medicine is also known as perinatology. High-risk pregnancies are assessed and managed by obstetricians/gynecologists who specialize in fetal medicine. These experts are well-versed in pregnancy complications, whether medical, surgical, or genetic.
Importance of fetal medicine
Fetal medicine is a field of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and medication of conditions that impact the fetus during pregnancy. It is an essential field of medicine as it allows for early detection and management of potential health problems that may affect the unborn child. This can help to ensure the best possible outcome for both the mother and the baby.
It includes a variety of diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound, amniocentesis, and chronic villus sampling, which can detect conditions such as chromosomal abnormalities, congenital disabilities, and developmental delays. Additionally, fetal medicine includes specialized treatments such as fetal surgery, which can correct certain conditions before birth.
Fetal medicine is also crucial in managing high-risk pregnancies, such as those identified by pre-existing medical conditions or multiple gestations. This can help to reduce the risk of complications and guarantee the best possible outcome for both mother and baby.
Tests Included in Fetal Medicine
Aside from patient and family counselling about the fetal condition, there are various aspects of fetal medicine, such as non-invasive/invasive screening and diagnostic studies:
The most common and frequently used test for prenatal diagnosis is grayscale/ 2D/ 3D/ 4D with Colour Doppler ultrasonography. This test generates a representation of the foetus in the mother’s womb. In addition, various parts of the baby, such as the heart, head, and spine, are identified and measured during a foetal ultrasound. The testing can be done through the mother’s abdomen (transabdominal) or the vaginal canal (transvaginal). An unborn baby’s health can be evaluated safely using foetal ultrasound.
There are various foetal ultrasounds, each with unique advantages in specific situations. A Colour Doppler ultrasound, for example, can aid in studying blood flow through the umbilical cord between the foetus and the placenta. Likewise, a 3-D scan creates a realistic image of an unborn baby.
Other tests include the following:
- Foetal Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Echocardiography is used to evaluate the foetal heart.
- A mother’s blood test is done at various points during pregnancy to evaluate the growing foetal characteristics and assess several severe foetal afflictions such as chromosomal foetal abnormalities like Down Syndrome/ spinal cord defects in the foetus.
- Dual test – Between 10 and 13 weeks.
- Quadruple/triple test – At 16 to 20 weeks.
- Non-invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) of cell-free foetal DNA in the mother’s blood
These tests necessitate surgical intervention, ranging from inserting a fine needle into the uterus under ultrasound guidance to more invasive procedures like fetoscopy. The following are the most common invasive tests recommended by fetal medicine specialists:
- Amniocentesis is the removal of approximately 20 ml of fluid from the sac surrounding the baby and the analysis of the fetal cells/fluid.
- Chorionic villus sampling entails removing a small amount of placental tissue and sending the placental cell fluid for genetic testing.
- Cordocentesis, percutaneous umbilical blood sampling, funipuncture, or PUBS are all terms for umbilical cord sampling.
Fetal medicine encompasses a wide range of treatments and procedures used to diagnose and manage conditions that affect the development and health of the foetus. Fetal medicine specialists in Hyderabad are highly trained medical professionals specializing in diagnosing and treating fetal disorders. Some of the most common treatments in fetal medicine include:
A non-invasive method of imaging the foetus which uses high-frequency sound waves to generate a picture of the baby and its surrounding structures. Ultrasound can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, including chromosomal abnormalities, structural defects, and growth problems.
A method in which a small sample of the amniotic fluid that envelops the fetus is removed and analyzed. This can be used to detect chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders, as well as to determine the maturity of the foetus’s lungs.
A type of surgical procedure that is performed on the foetus while it is still in the womb. This can treat certain structural defects, such as spina bifida, and remove uterine tumors.
This includes a range of treatments used to manage the conditions that affect the health and development of a fetus. These may consist of administering medications or blood transfusions to the fetus or performing procedures such as laser therapy to treat certain conditions.
This involves using electronic devices to monitor the foetus’s heart rate and other vital signs during labor and delivery. This can help to detect any problems with the baby’s well-being and can help to guide the care that is provided during delivery.
Who requires Fetal Medicine?
In addition to obstetrics and gynecology, fetal medicine can benefit any pregnancy. Globally, two to three of every hundred children are born with congenital disabilities. Many of these congenital disabilities can be avoided if they are identified early. The advantages of fetal medicine include the following:
- Testing for genetic/chromosomal abnormalities
- Reassurance and anxiety reduction, particularly among high-risk groups
- Prediction and prevention of preterm birth/fetal growth restriction, as well as issues associated with multiple pregnancies.
- To inform and prepare parents for the birth of a child with a disability.
- Plan for in-utero treatment transfer to a tertiary care centre
- Pregnancy with an affected foetus should be terminated.
Consult the best maternal-fetal medicine doctors who are highly skilled and experienced in providing the best supervision for both mother and baby during pregnancy.
The Bottom Line
Infants weighing 500g or less than 24 weeks had a low survival rate. However, the infant’s chances of survival improve as they spend more time in the womb. Then, the fetal medicine facility, which provides specialized, personalized care for the mother and baby, enters the picture.
Fetal medicine studies the development and health of the fetus while it is still inside the mother. The upkeep of the fetus’s health and detecting problems as the due date approaches are also covered. Fetal medicine doctors begin treatment as soon as they identify any issues with the fetus, as prenatal care is critical for predicting the baby’s health at birth.