York Central Hospital enhances services for high-risk pregnancies

To enhance the care to patients with high-risk pregnancies, York Central Hospital, in Richmond Hill, Ontario recently enhanced its Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) services. By consolidating these services in a beautiful, newly renovated clinic, patients experience a more calm, restful and family focused experience.

Complete with new artwork and modern clinic décor, this move brings together the specialized services required for some parents-to-be and provides one-stop-shopping type access for these services, closer to home.

In the past, patients who required MFM services made individual appointments in clinics across the hospital or needed to travel to downtown Toronto hospitals for specialized procedures including fetal assessment ultrasounds, genetic testing and counseling and amniocentesis. Today, these women can receive all their prenatal care and deliver their babies at their community hospital.

All pregnancies carry some risk, to either mother or baby. Possible risks include the mothers’ age, previous problem pregnancies, pre-existing conditions that can complicate a pregnancy (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), conditions that develop during pregnancy (such as gestational diabetes), multiple births, and fetal growth irregularities.

“More than a third of the more than 40 patients we see each day have been identified as high-risk pregnancies for various reasons,” says Dr. Jon Barrett, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hospital. “This doesn’t mean for certain that a pregnancy will be difficult, or the baby will have health problems,” he adds. “High-risk” just means a higher than average chance of complications.”

Convenient access

Sally Rogers, the hospitals’ Operations Director for the Surgery and Woman and Child Program says, “Thanks to our consolidation of services, expectant mothers in York Region no longer have to travel as far as before to find these specialized services.” The benefit to patients is clear, “having access to MFM expertise closer to home is a great relief for families, and can save them considerable time and stress,” she adds.

“A key part of the Woman and Child Program at the hospital, the MFM team provides care and counselling as appropriate before and throughout pregnancies, and prepares patients and families for possible complications,” adds Rogers.

An added benefit of these specialized services being at the hospital is the enhanced communication with the hospital obstetrics team before and during delivery. When an expectant mother goes into labour at York Central her doctors have access to her records throughout her pregnancy as well as access to the experts who provided care throughout the pregnancy and discuss options to provide a safe delivery.

Women are usually referred to MFM services by their Obstetrician or another specialist, if the risk for a potential pregnancy related health concern is identified.The referral is often just a matter of taking precautions, and giving the mother and baby the care and support required for everyone’s health and peace of mind.

In late 2010, the Hospital celebrated the opening of its new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to further support newborn babies who might require additional assistance after birth. With these readily available services, “we are able to care for patients before, during and after birth for both mother and baby,” says Dr. Barrett.

Experienced care team

York Central Hospital was the first community hospital in Ontario to have a full-time, on-site MFM Service including a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, an Ultrasound Technologist experienced in using 3D/4D Ultrasound Technology and a Paediatric Cardiologist with expertise in fetal echocardiography (fetal echo) to care for high-risk pregnancies. Fetal echo is similar to the obstetrical ultrasound that shows an image of the fetus, but is aimed specifically at diagnosing heart conditions in the baby during pregnancy.

The MFM team has expanded to accommodate the demand in services from the community to include two additional maternal fetal medicine specialist, as well as four ultrasound technicians, two genetic counsellors and support staff.
Services include maternal and fetal medical care, monitoring, tests, and education around pre and post-partum health. The program is linked with other services at the hospital that touch on high-risk pregnancies, including genetic testing and counselling.

“Often, patients are simply monitored more carefully while their pregnancy proceeds normally,” says Dr. Barrett. “Other times, we may suggest specific treatments and courses of action. Our team works in partnership with the obstetrician or midwife, to develop a care plan that suits the mother’s specific needs, and offers the best chance of a successful outcome.