Preparing for a new baby is meant to be a joyous time for a mom to be, and if you are facing the possibility of a high-risk pregnancy, the doctors at the Center for Fetal Care at Lakeland Regional Health can provide the reassurance and additional care you need to help guide you through a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Recently I sat down with Dr. Thinh Nguyen from the Bill & Kathy Pou Center for Fetal Care to talk more about the term “high-risk” and learn about the services available to expectant moms who are more likely to develop problems during pregnancy. Dr. Nguyen is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist with Nemours Children’s Health System, one of many doctors providing expanded pediatric specialty care in our community through Lakeland Regional Health’s collaboration with Nemours.

Dr. Nguyen is the only full-time Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist in Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Haines City.

Recently I sat down with Dr. Thinh Nguyen from the Bill & Kathy Pou Center for Fetal Care to talk more about the term “high-risk” and learn about the services available to expectant moms who are more likely to develop problems during pregnancy. Dr. Nguyen is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist with Nemours Children’s Health System, one of many doctors providing expanded pediatric specialty care in our community through Lakeland Regional Health’s collaboration with Nemours.

Lakeland Regional Health Center for Fetal Care

Dr. Nguyen is the only full-time Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist in Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Haines City.

We are proud to have Lakeland Regional Health as a Lakeland Mom Sponsor and share more about the services they provide to our community. Below is a summary of our conversation help you learn more about the expert care available for high-risk pregnancies right here in Lakeland.

Author’s Note: One of the things I find most valuable in a doctor is their bedside manner and how easy they are to talk to, how well they answer questions that I feel silly asking, etc. I could have talked with Dr. Nguyen for hours. He was personable, and gave easy to understand answers to my {many} questions. As a father himself, he clearly has compassion for his patients. While writing this and thinking back over our conversation, I realized that if I were a pregnant mom entering into his care, I would have felt a great deal of reassurance after that first meeting with Dr. Nguyen. 

What is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist?

A Maternal Fetal-Medicine Specialist is a high-risk pregnancy “expert” also called a perinatologist.  They are first educated as an OBGYN physician, and then complete an additional 3 years of training to become experienced in treating a variety of pregnancy complications. A Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist works in conjunction with your obstetrician to provide specialized evaluations and guide you through a healthy pregnancy and birth. They treat women with high-risk pregnancies as well as the babies they carry.

How do you define “high-risk”?

“High-risk pregnancy” is a broad term that is often applied to any mother who is at a higher risk to have health problems during pregnancy, birth, or after delivery. Pre-existing conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure), genetic risks, your age, having multiples, and conditions that develop during pregnancy can all put you in the “high-risk” category and prompt you to see a Maternal-Fetal specialist. This does not necessarily mean you will have a more difficult pregnancy, but it often includes extra care and monitoring to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

In addition, if testing or an ultrasound shows a potential birth defect or in utero complication, the Center for Fetal Care can provide you with additional guidance and treatment for your baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and post-delivery.

How does a woman know if she is high-risk?

Once you become pregnant and have an appointment with an obstetrician, your doctor will administer common pregnancy blood tests and ultrasound imaging and review your medical history. From this comprehensive assessment of your maternal health, your OB will determine whether you are at a higher risk for complications and could benefit from more specialized care. Most women who require a visit to the maternal-fetal specialist will be referred by their obstetrician. This could be a Lakeland Regional Health obstetrician or any other OB or health clinic in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Haines City, and surrounding communities.

Lakeland Regional Health Center for Fetal Care

Should certain women meet with a Fetal Care specialist prior to becoming pregnant?

If you are being treated for a pre-existing medical condition, have had a high-risk pregnancy in the past, have genetic risks, are obese, or have a chronic medical issue, an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine physician can provide you with guidance prior to conception that increases your ability to have a healthy pregnancy.

Will a pregnant woman switch to a high-risk doctor for all appointments?

No. A Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician works alongside your OB to help ensure a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby. Sometimes this only requires one visit or one specialized test. Other times you will return regularly to the specialist for additional monitoring, but you will continue to see your OB for regular checkups as your pregnancy progresses. Every pregnancy will have a unique plan of care and the Center for Fetal Care can ensure that you are regularly monitored as your body changes and your baby grows.

How has the new Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women & Children redefined healthcare for women and children in our community?  

First, the new building is beautiful! In addition to being a spacious and modern building, the Pavilion is also home to state of the art technology and highly trained staff who provide compassionate care. The pavilion has really enabled doctors and staff to provide a new level of personalized care during life’s most important moments.

One important feature for Maternal-Fetal Medicine is the new Level III NICU at Lakeland Regional Health, the highest level NICU in Polk County. Having a Level III NICU only 2 floors above the Center for Fetal Care means that women have a continuum of care all in one building from preconception through delivery. High-risk pregnancies often come with an increased possibility of early delivery, and having a Level III NICU provides these patients the ability to deliver right here close to home and stay with their baby overnight if an extended NICU stay is required.

The Pavilion is also home to a Labor & Delivery Floor, Mother & Baby unit, our Children’s Emergency Department, a Pediatric Floor, OBGYN doctors, and a chapel, cafeteria, and gift shop for visitors.

Lakeland Regional Health Center for Fetal Care

One of 30 private NICU Rooms with a separate area for parents

Why should women choose the Center for Fetal Care at Lakeland Regional Health?

Lakeland Regional Health collaborates with Nemours Children’s Health System to provide Polk County families with the opportunity to see specialists right here close to home.

LRH also has a coordinated network of care that includes your referring obstetrician, maternal-fetal specialist, hospitalist and labor and delivery team, and possibly a NICU doctor to provide continuous care from pregnancy through delivery and any possible NICU stay. This ensures that all of your providers are on the same page, and that you and your baby’s needs are met every step of your pregnancy journey.

If you are more likely to develop problems during pregnancy, the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists at Lakeland Regional Health have the knowledge and experience to provide the best possible care for you and your and baby.

April Mucci Lakeland Mom
April Mucci Lakeland Mom

About the Author: April Mucci

April is the owner of LakelandMom.com. She has lived in Lakeland since age 2 and is passionate about our community and connecting families with local resources. She is a mom to 2 boys and a mini goldendoodle, wife to Matt. You can often find April at the baseball field where she cheers on her baseball loving 11 year old, or home building Legos with her 8 year old. She loves reading, saltwater fishing, and working on Lakeland Mom!