Maternal and foetal care

Maternal and foetal medicine

What is maternal and foetal medicine?

Maternal and foetal medicine, also known as perinatology, is a branch of medicine that focuses on managing health concerns of the pregnant woman and foetus prior to and during pregnancy, and shortly after delivery.

The role of maternal and foetal specialists

Specialists in maternal and foetal medicine are specialists in the field of obstetrics who deal with pre-existing health concerns in women, as well as with complications caused by pregnancy.  They may perform prenatal tests (i.e. tests prior to the woman becoming pregnant), provide treatment and perform surgeries. They furthermore act as consultant during lower-risk pregnancies, and as the primary obstetrician in especially high-risk pregnancies. 

The field of maternal and foetal medicine is one of the most rapidly evolving fields in medicine, especially in respect of the foetus. Research in the field of foetal gene and stem cell therapy continues with the aim of providing early treatment for genetic disorders, open foetal surgery prior to birth for the correction of birth defects like congenital heart disease, and the prevention of pre-eclampsia.

Maternal and foetal specialists attend to patients who fall within certain levels of maternal care. These levels correspond to health risks for the mother, baby, or both during pregnancy. They take care of pregnant women who:

  • have a medical condition such as heart or kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes or thrombophilia;
  • are at risk for pregnancy related complications such as preterm labour, pre-eclampsia; and twin or triple pregnancies.
  • have foetuses at risk due to chromosomal or congenital abnormalities, maternal diseases, infections, genetic diseases and growth restriction.

The field of maternal and foetal medicine is one of the most rapidly evolving fields in medicine.

Foetal chromosomal and foetal anomaly scans are the most common reason that pregnant women are referred to a maternal and foetal specialist for assessment. Congenital abnormalities account for 2 to 3% of births in industrialised countries and need to be taken seriously (Shamnas et al, 2013), as giving birth to a disabled child can have psychological, financial and other social consequences for the affected family.

Foetal anomaly screening

Foetal anomaly screening is done via a 3-dimensional (3D) ultrasound examination by a maternal and foetal specialist. It is important to know the number of foetuses, foetal size, weight and gestational age, location of the placenta, appearance of the cervix, amount of amniotic fluid and any abnormalities of the uterus or ovaries.

The specialist will also closely examine the foetus’ heart, face, brain, stomach, spine, kidneys, bladder, arms, legs, hands, feet, umbilical cord and gender. Ultrasound furthermore enables the specialist to examine the baby’s liver, spleen, intestines and lungs along with blood flow in various vessels.

If a problem is suspected, the specialist will explain the findings to the parents and make specific recommendations. Further tests such as amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, blood tests, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and a foetal echocardiogram might also be needed.

Maternal and foetal services at Netcare hospitals

There are specialists in maternal and foetal medicine practising at a number of Netcare hospitals. 

Maternal and foetal specialists

Netcare Femina Hospital

Dr Felicia Molokoane

Netcare Garden City Hospital

Dr Aisha Patel

Netcare Park Lane Hospital

Dr Aisha Patel

Netcare Pinehaven Hospital

Dr L Langa-Mlambo

Netcare Sunninghill Hospital

Dr EP Frohlich

Netcare uMhlanga Hospital

Dr I Bhorat

Western Cape
Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital

Dr C Elliott