Receiving over 300 referrals each month, the Feto-Maternal Medicine Unit (FMU) at the Women’s Wellness and Research Center is providing specialized care to women with high-risk and complex pregnancies.
Thousands of women have received care at the FMU since established in 2002, with around 3,000 undergoing specialized prenatal procedures. Last year, over 8,000 fetal examinations were conducted at the Unit, providing treatment to expectant mothers requiring specialized care for maternal or fetal reasons.
The Unit, which recently moved from Women’s Hospital to the Women’s Wellness and Research Center at Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City, offers diagnosis and treatment of complications which may arise in unborn babies.
According to Dr. Najat Ali Mohsen Khenyab, Head of the Feto-Maternal Medicine Unit and Senior Consultant Obstetrics/Gynecology at HMC; “Pregnancy is a normal and joyful occurrence and in many cases pregnancy is uncomplicated. However, some women face difficulties while pregnant and experience complications for a number of reasons, including miscarriage, pre-term labor and pre-term birth, preeclampsia (associated with high blood pressure and protein in the urine), abnormal amniotic volume, and diabetes,” she notes.
Mrs. Noor Al Mansoori, who received care at the Feto-Maternal Medicine Unit during her recent pregnancy, described her experience as reassuring. “I was referred to the FMU at 20 weeks gestation due to a suspected fetal abnormality. I feel fortunate to have received care at this unit. The doctors and nurses were great. The Unit’s doctor thoroughly explained the suspected problem and the treatment plan to both myself and my husband. They explained the situation in a way we could understand and we both felt very reassured that everything would be ok. I have recently given birth to a healthy baby girl at full term.”
Dr. Sawsan Hassan Al Obaidly, Consultant Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, explained that one of the biggest advantages of having a high functioning FMU is the ability to diagnose congenital problems in unborn babies earlier. “We have diagnosed a number of congenital abnormalities in unborn babies such as heart defects (which is the most common type of structural defect in unborn babies), cranio-facial anomalies, spine defects, and organ anomalies. We also see placental disorders including abnormal placental implantation, placental insufficiency, and fetal growth restriction,” she said.
Dr. Al Obaidly added that a number of the FMU’s patients are older mothers. She noted that the combination of some women waiting until later in life to start their family, delayed conception due to infertility or other health conditions, and advancements in fertility treatment have resulted in increased demand for the Unit’s services.
The FMU holds four daily fetal scanning and procedure clinics in addition to counseling clinics. Dr. Khenyab noted that while a referral from HMC or a primary health care or private clinic is preferred, emergency walk-in patients are accepted. She emphasized that the Unit has gained a distinguished reputation across the region due to a number of patients being referred from outside the country for both prenatal diagnosis and counseling.
“The FMU was established to provide the best evidence-based care in fetal medicine and to meet the needs of women in Qatar who are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. This is especially important because of our expanding population and the increased number of women who are getting pregnant later in life,” Dr. Khenyab said.
In addition to providing core fetal medicine services, Dr. Khenyab added that the FMU offers other subspecialty clinics, including a fetal cardiology service and a prenatal genetic counseling service for couples with a current or previous history of fetal abnormalities.