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UCI Health and CHOC Open One of the First Fetal Care Centers in So. Cal

By Lucas Smith | June 23, 2021

A partnership between UCI Health and CHOC, the Fetal Care Center of Southern California began seeing its first patients today: expectant parents experiencing the unexpected news of a high-risk pregnancy with a baby facing complex medical conditions. This unique collaboration, filling an unmet need in the region, brings together world-class experts in both maternal-fetal medicine and pediatrics so both parents and baby are cared for in one patient-centered location.

“The Fetal Care Center of Southern California is a one-stop care center for pregnant parents whose babies have serious birth defects that will need treatment after delivery – or in some cases even before delivery,” said Dr. Peter Yu, a CHOC general surgeon and co-medical director of the Fetal Care Center. “Expectant parents can put all their burdens, anxiety and concerns on us. We can take care of almost any issue a baby may be facing – and we’ll be with each family every step of the way.”

Complex fetal anomalies affect 1 to 3% of pregnancies with a number of these babies requiring neonatal intensive care and surgery immediately following birth. Located on CHOC’s campus in Orange, Calif., the Fetal Care Center ensures families have access to this critically important care in a single location. Expectant parents can be seen by a full complement of maternal-fetal medicine and pediatric specialties in one day and in one center.

the lobby of the fetal care center of southern california

“When there is a special delivery expected with complicated fetal disease or a birth defect, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist works in concert with pediatric specialists to manage in-utero complications and delivery issues, as well as plan lifelong care for the baby,” said Dr. Jennifer Jolley, OB/GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist with UCI Health. “Now, we can streamline that care through this unique collaboration between UCI Health and CHOC.”

In addition to certain fetal interventions like amniocentesis, tube/shunt placement, transfusions and more, the multi-disciplinary, comprehensive Fetal Care Center will offer:

“The Fetal Care Center of Southern California aims to provide families with every resource necessary – excellent diagnostics, comprehensive counseling, and neonatal and surgical planning, with an emphasis on multi-disciplinary care coordination to meet the needs of the entire family,” said Dr. Nita Doshi, a CHOC cardiologist. “An expectant family can now be seen by all needed specialists in one day in one location.”

The Fetal Care Center team is with parents and baby at every step to bring peace of mind: confirming or further defining the baby’s diagnosis; counseling parents on what to expect; providing prenatal interventions mom and baby may need; delivering the baby safely; and providing the medical treatment baby will receive afterward.

genetic counseling room at fetal care center of southern california

“The role of the neonatology division in the Fetal Care Center is to provide support for the families and the babies from the diagnosis all the way through to their perinatal care and care in the neonatal intensive care unit,” said Dr. Kushal Bhakta, a neonatologist and medical director of CHOC’s Small Baby Unit. “We deeply understand that this is likely the most stressful time of a parent’s life, and we’re here to help them navigate that.”

A nurse coordinator serves as a concierge for the expectant parent, offering a single point of contact to answer questions and coordinate across specialties, from diagnosis to delivery.

“We understand that a new parent who is experiencing complications doesn’t want to wait to see their provider – she wants to know right away what is happening with her baby,” said Amy Cuevas MSN, RN-CCTM, manager of the Fetal Care Center. “Once we get a referral, we see the patient in our calming environment within seven days. Following an echocardiogram or ultrasound, they’ll meet with their nurse coordinator for education about the baby’s diagnosis and they’ll leave here knowing that there is a plan of care in place.”

The 2,200-square-foot Fetal Care Center features a spacious lobby, two echocardiogram rooms, one ultrasound room, two patient consultation rooms and a physician reading room, all set against soothing, spa-like aesthetics including warm wooden accents and sophisticated, vibrant artwork.

The total cost to build the Fetal Care Center, as well as CHOC’s adjacent outpatient heart center, was $5.25 million, made possible through generous community support, in particular leadership donors the Glass Slipper Guild and Kathryn Hennigan.

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