MedWatch: Maternal Fetal Medicine

Pregnancy can be a time of joy and wonder for expectant moms and dads, but it can also be frightening if either the mother’s or baby’s health is at risk.

Now there’s a full-time physician at Munson Healthcare dedicated to those special cases, giving couples peace of mind at a time when they need it most.

Michelle Dunaway introduces us to her in this month’s MedWatch report.

“At my age, we were trying and planning and hoping, not sure, but it worked,” said new mom Kimberly Webster.

Like so many couples, Kimberly Webster and Michael Griffith were ecstatic when they learned they would be parents, but with that joy came some worry.

“At the time I got pregnant, I was 41, so going into that at my age with chronic hypertension was a concern,” explained Kimberly.

Michael said, “Everybody was pretty worried. In reality, it went pretty well in the beginning but there was concern about the extenuating circumstances, things like that.”

Being a nurse, Kimberly looked to the people she knew and trusted for suggestions.

That’s how she ended up with maternal fetal medicine physician June Murphy.

“Maternal fetal medicine, that’s basically tying in all the risk factors, high risk pregnancy conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, maternal heart disease and the fetal birth defects that could need special care after delivery. So it’s basically taking the routine pregnancy care and then the moms who have these risk factors, we address those issues and can partner with their OB through pregnancy,” explained Dr. Murphy.

She’s a specialist that’s in demand now more than ever. 

“We do see moms delaying child bearing, which is then related to the high risk for diabetes and high blood pressure as we get older, but we’re also seeing other problems with, for example, opiate addiction,” said Dr. Murphy.

That’s why Munson Healthcare brought Dr. Murphy on essentially full-time, serving patients in Traverse City and occasionally Manistee.

Before this, a visiting physician would only see patients here 3-4 times a month.

Kimberly got into see her shortly after conception.

“They changed one of my meds or eliminated one of my meds pretty quickly in order to protect his kidneys. There was a real thoroughness, yeah,” said Kimberly.

She also worked in conjunction with Kimberly’s other physicians to make sure mom was healthy too.

“You were taking your blood pressure several times a day, four times a day, to monitor for trends, just to be cautious of that if there was a change there it was a cue for them to do something about that,” said Michael.

As she neared her delivery date, the extra care proved it payed off.

“They wanted to induce me initially at 36 or 37 weeks, and when we got to 20 weeks and Dr. Murphy said to me, ‘I didn’t expect to see you and the baby looking this good as this point.’ She gave me a high-five and that’s when I bartered for 38 weeks and she agreed, as long as we were still going well,” explained Kimberly.

In the end, both Finnegan and Kimberly had a safe, healthy C-section, and today Finn is thriving.

“He’s a really good baby,” said Michael.

And in the end, that’s Dr. Murphy’s goal with every pregnancy.

“I thought who has the greater potential than a fetus that’s in utero, you can alter their live just based on when you deliver them. So trying to maximize these outcomes and prolong these pregnancies as long as possible was a goal for me and I just never looked back,” explained Dr. Murphy.

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