Maternal-Fetal Medicine

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Maternal-fetal medicine specialists work along with other specialty providers, such as pediatric surgeons, to determine the best plan of care for mother and baby.

The maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, part of Norton Women’s Care, focus on your unborn baby’s health as well as your well-being. Congenital (present at birth) anomalies detected while you’re pregnant could mean your baby needs specialized care before, during and after delivery.

Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists work closely with your obstetrician and with pediatricians and specialists across the Norton Children’s network, including those with expertise in fetal cardiology and congenital heart disease; urology; general surgery; gastroenterology; endocrinology; neuroscience; orthopedics; and pulmonology.

A complex pregnancy requires specialized care for the mother as well, and our maternal-fetal medicine specialists are trained and experienced in treating preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, heart concerns and other conditions that can accompany pregnancy. A maternal-fetal medicine physician is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who specializes in high-risk pregnancy.

Board-certified, specialty-trained maternal-fetal medicine specialists, also called perinatologists, and neonatologists work closely with you as you prepare for delivery.

Norton Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is rated Level IV — representing the most sophisticated level of newborn care.

When you deliver at Norton Hospital, that Level IV NICU is just across a pedway, meaning you are right there should your baby need the level of specialized care its compassionate staff can provide. With 101 beds, the Norton Children’s Hospital NICU is one of the largest in the country. Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews is home to a Level III NICU.

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Providing support and care for you and your baby

When we identify medical and developmental needs as early as possible, we can provide the services and support your family may need. Our team includes a patient navigator who serves as a family advocate to helps with appointments, transportation, education and more. When you are our patient with a high-risk pregnancy, especially if you have to travel, you may be able to consolidate appointments for one visit. Several of our network’s maternal-fetal medicine specialists, obstetricians, neonatologists, nurse practitioners, sonographers and diabetes educators practice on the same campuses. At the Norton Children’s Perinatal Center, located on the Norton Healthcare ­– St. Matthews campus, many are in the same office. Many of our patients travel hundreds of miles for care, so this is an important convenience.

If you are traveling and need a place to stay, special discounted rates are available to Norton Healthcare patients and families. Additional discounts may depend on time of year and/or hotel vacancy.

Congenital Anomalies

A complex pregnancy may require specialized care for you, your baby or both. In some cases, the mother’s health is fine, but a congenital anomaly has been discovered in the baby’s development. This usually will be discovered during a routine ultrasound. Your obstetrician may refer you to maternal-fetal medicine specialists to evaluate the care of your baby through pregnancy and after birth.

Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists also conduct fetal Doppler studies, fetal cardiac screening, fetal lung maturity testing and first-trimester nuchal translucency screening.

Genetic testing also can reveal a congenital anomaly. Knowing any challenges your baby may face ahead of time can help you be more prepared when your baby arrives.

Congenital anomalies also may be discovered before birth through blood tests for protein levels.

Congenital anomalies can develop due to genetics; medication side effects; exposure to chemicals, including illicit drugs; and complications from pregnancy. Conditions that emerge as your baby develops are often out of your control and can’t be prevented.

Examples of congenital anomalies that may be discovered before birth include a broad range of heart conditions that can be treated with success that was not possible a generation ago.

Birth defect is a medically accurate term, but some may find it uncomfortable or offensive. Health care providers frequently will refer to these conditions as birth conditions, birth disorders, congenital anomalies or similar terms.


A first-trimester ultrasound looks for extra fluid behind the baby’s neck. Increased fluid could be a sign the baby has a chromosomal disorder or heart condition.

Another ultrasound at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy checks the baby’s size and looks for structural abnormalities in the baby’s development. A high-resolution or Level 2 ultrasound may be needed to look in more detail for possible anomalies or other conditions.

A fetal echocardiogram is a specialized type of ultrasound that can diagnose heart conditions as early as 16 to 18 weeks into your pregnancy.

Your obstetrician may order a fetal echocardiogram, also called a fetal echo, after a routine ultrasound. A fetal echocardiogram also may be done if a close family member has a congenital heart disease. If the mother has diabetes, the baby could be at increased risk for a heart condition.

Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers fetal echo tests at locations around Kentucky and Southern Indiana. In many locations, the fetal echocardiogram is performed at your local hospital, and the results are transmitted to congenital heart disease specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute.

Norton Children’s Perinatal Center on the Norton Healthcare – St. Matthews campus has added and upgraded ultrasound equipment to provide superior image quality and color along with unique fetal heart imaging tools.

Genetic Screening

Many congenital anomalies can be detected with genetic screening. These include:

Chorionic villus sampling is a form of genetic test where a small sample of cells is collected from the placenta. The cells are formed from the fertilized egg and typically have the same genetic structure as the fetus. The cells can reveal conditions such as Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, Tay-Sachs disease and trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome).

Amniocentesis may be offered if your child has a high chance of a genetic disorder. Amniocentesis collects a small amount of amniotic fluid by inserting a long, thin, ultrasound-guided needle through your abdomen. The procedure takes about 10 minutes, and anesthesia isn’t necessary. Fetal blood sampling is another method used to collect samples for genetic testing.

Norton Children’s Perinatal Center

At the Norton Children’s Perinatal Center, we provide collaborative care from the beginning of a high-risk pregnancy diagnosis to the follow-up care of a newborn, all at the same location.

Our network of referral centers across the region provides convenient access to the Norton Children’s Perinatal Center team. Your physician will refer you to the Norton Children’s Perinatal Center if you need the extra level of care.

Where to Receive Maternal-Fetal Medicine Care

Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine has practices in Louisville on the Norton Healthcare downtown campus and the Norton Healthcare – St. Matthews campus, as well as outreach clinics in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Elizabethtown, Kentucky; and Paducah, Kentucky. Our outreach clinics enable patients with complicated pregnancies to receive specialized care without always traveling to Louisville. Outreach clinics are staffed by our maternal-fetal medicine specialists and highly trained sonographers who provide the same level of care as our Louisville offices.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Tours

In-person neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) tours are available to those who have an expected NICU stay. Call to set up a NICU tour.

  • NICU tour at Norton Children’s Hospital: Call (502) 629-5835 to register.
  • NICU tour at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital: Call (502) 559-3933 to register.

Virtual Tour

You can view a virtual tour video of the Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital NICU. This is also a useful example of what to expect in the Norton Children’s Hospital NICU.

How We’ll Care for Your Complex Pregnancy, Delivery and Newborn

  • Our team of more than 10 fellowship-trained, board-certified and highly experienced maternal-fetal medicine physicians means easier access to expertise for your complex pregnancy.
  • Two dedicated patient navigators who are registered nurses provide one-on-one support and guide you through your pregnancy care, including coordinating appointments for those traveling from outside Louisville.
  • Maternal-fetal medicine offices in Louisville, St. Mathews, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Paducah all provide the same level of specialized care.
  • Deliver down the hall from the Norton Children’s Hospital Level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) — the highest rated in Louisville and Southern Indiana — or the Level III NICU at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
  • If your baby will need specialized care after birth, we’ll convene all the specialists who could have insight to your baby’s condition to prepare. Experienced physicians from across Norton Children’s will review your baby’s development and put in place a plan to provide the best possible care.
  • Depending on your condition, you may deliver at your home hospital; if necessary, the Norton Children’s Hospital  “Just for Kids” Transport Team will bring your baby to a Norton Children’s NICU in Louisville.
  • You can keep your OB/GYN for your delivery while getting the expertise of the maternal-fetal medicine team caring for your health and the health of your baby or multiples.
  • Medicaid and most commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Communicate with your medical provider, manage appointments and get alerts if an earlier appointment becomes available through your free Norton MyChart account.

Reviewed by Whitney E. Jamie, M.D.,  maternal-fetal medicine physician with Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, part of Norton Women’s Care.  

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