Pregnancy is usually a joyous time for parents-to-be, with the anticipation of a new baby, sleepless nights, and soft baby skin. There are many screening and diagnostic tests available during pregnancy, which the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends for women. Some of the tests are just for screening, meaning they assess your risk (rather than give you an actual diagnosis). Sometimes, these results can cause a lot of anxiety.
I’m in the middle of my second pregnancy, and I’ve been fortunate enough, so far, to have healthy pregnancies. But for those who don’t, Children’s National has a Fetal Medicine team who specialize in caring for women and their developing pregnancy. At first, it seemed a bit odd to me for a hospital that specializes in pediatrics to offer these services, but then it started to make sense.
Margaret Menzel, MS, a genetic counselor within the Fetal and Transitional Medicine team, explained that the team at Children’s has access to all of the pediatric specialists a family might need – whether that’s a cardiologist, orthopaedic surgeon, neurologist, or other specialist.
Patients are referred to the Fetal Medicine team for further testing, typically after the 2-week ultrasound. But oftentimes, families come before that. Some abnormalities can be detected in the first trimester, which is the case with some heart problems, which can be seen by our Fetal Heart Program
“We help patients to learn and interpret as much information as possible about their pregnancy,” explains Menzel. “A patient may come to see us to talk about a concern they have about a family history of a particular genetic abnormality prior to conception, or we may see them on a more urgent basis when the possibility of a fetal abnormality arises during a pregnancy.”
Having as much information as possible helps families and the medical team plan for a variety of outcomes and scenarios, which can provide comfort to families facing an uncertain time.
For those experienced moms out there, what advice can you offer to families just beginning the journey?