Chances are if you know that you're pregnant with multiples then you already have a OBGYN (obstetrician/gynecologist), but have you thought about choosing a perinatologist?
A perinatologist is an obstetrical sub-specialty of obstetrics, also known as maternal-fetal medicine, concerned with the care of the fetus and complicated pregnancies. Perinatologists spend an additional 2-3 years specializing in maternal-fetal health and high-risk pregnancies. A perinatologist should work closely with your doctor or midwife to manage your care.
Only about 10% of women who are pregnant need the extra care of a perinatologist. If your medical history is complicated, or if you are expecting multiples (especially higher order), then choosing a perinatologist may be a good decision for you.
What is a Perinatologist?
A perinatologist is experienced in using amniocentesis and cordocentesis procedures to examine the development of the fetus. Perinatologists can perform certain medical procedures such as the administration of medications through the placenta to manage a high risk pregnancy. He or she may be present at the birth and will be the caregiver of choice for your checkups to help detect and correct problems in fetal development before birth. A perinatologist will also develop a treatment plan for the mother if rest or medications are needed to ensure a healthy delivery.
A perinatologist may team up with neonatologists during the birth of the baby to make sure that all criteria for preserving the health of the baby and mother are taken during labor and immediately afterward.
The work of the perinatologist is focused on keeping mother and baby as healthy as possible, and keeping the baby inside for the duration of gestation because babies have a better chance of survival if they are born at full term rather than prematurely.
Choosing a Perinatologist
When choosing a perinatologist, you should choose someone you feel comfortable with and are able to openly communicate with. Your obstetrician may be able to refer you to someone within their practice which can make the transition easier. Mothers of multiples groups can also be a great source of referrals, advice, and support.
If your obstetrician doesn't offer you a referral to a perinatologist and you would like to see one, don't be afraid to ask for your obstetrician for a referral. At the least, this will inform your obstetrician of your concerns with your pregnancy, if you haven't already discussed them. If your obstetrician is not willing to give you a referral to a perinatologist and you believe you do need one, you could always search for a new obstetrician.
Always remember, this is your pregnancy. My twins were born at 29 weeks, 11 weeks premature. I did not have a perinatologist, though I was well aware of what a perinatologist is and why they are important. Would having a perinatologist have made a difference in the gestation of my twins when they were born? We'll never know, but I always tell soon-to-be-mothers that if you have any questions or concerns with your pregnancy don't hesitate to talk to a specialist.