Most child births take place naturally. Generally, after a full-term pregnancy, mothers go into labour and give birth to a healthy baby. A couple of days after giving birth, mothers can leave the hospital and get on with their lives with their newborns. However, some pregnancies are not as smooth; they come with certain medical risks. A high-risk pregnancy is when there are factors that could damage the health of the mother, the baby, or both. High-risk pregnancies require monitoring by a trained and experienced professional to ensure that the mother and baby remain as healthy as possible. That’s where perinatologists come in. 

What is Perinatology?

Perinatology is a branch of medicine that deals with complicated or risky pregnancies and foetal defects discovered during pregnancy. Perinatology is also known as maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) and comes under the branch of obstetrics. A doctor who specialises in perinatology is called a perinatologist. A perinatologist’s job description includes diagnosing, treating and providing ongoing care of women who have medical complications during pregnancy. A perinatologist has to undergo specialised training in perinatology after medical school, which usually takes two to three additional years of residency. Perinatology is a fascinating speciality as doctors in this field work with sensitive and complicated cases. Let’s further look at what perinatology is and how to be a specialist in the field.

What Does a Perinatologist Do

Perinatologists work along with a patient’s regular obstetrician to come up with a treatment plan, perform ultrasounds, and give diagnoses. Perinatologists are consulted when a patient has a history of complicated pregnancies, existing serious health conditions, or any other unexpected health complication that arises during pregnancy. The obstetrician first performs a checkup at the first consultation. If the doctor notices a potential risk factor, the patient is referred to the perinatologist, who will then take a specialized Level II ultrasound, a safe high-resolution ultrasound, to confirm the initial diagnosis. If need be, the perinatologist may even suggest an echocardiogram of the foetus, a cervical examination or another specialised testing for a more accurate diagnosis.

Perinatologists work with other healthcare specialists such as nurses and physician assistants. They are authorized to use expensive and cutting-edge equipment to perform tests, because of which perinatologists generally work in large hospitals.

How To Become a Perinatologist

Aspiring perinatologists have to first earn a medical degree, which involves the standard procedure for any student who wants to be a doctor. They first need to finish four years of pre-med with biology, chemistry and related subjects as their major and then earn a graduate degree in medicine (MD) or osteopathic medicine (D.O.). The next step is to complete a residency in obstetrics and gynaecology, which typically takes four more years after medical school. Students rotate between subspecialties such as maternal-fetal medicine, and other types of care such as emergency medicine, primary care and family planning.

Choosing a subspecialty means further education and training through a fellowship. Medical fellows then go on to become experts in a speciality branch of medicine. A perinatologist fellowship may go on for two or three years after residency. The total amount of time it takes is about 14 years after graduating high school.

The job prospects for aspiring perinatologists are expected to grow in the next few years. Women in recent years are having babies at a later age than women in the previous generations, leading to more complex cases of pregnancies. The ever-increasing cases of complex pregnancies only highlight the need for specialists in high-risk pregnancy care. The cost of medical education and the number of years in training make this field of medicine not only high in demand but also high in salary.