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Finding out that your baby's health is at risk can be overwhelming. When expecting moms and babies need special care, Children’s Mercy is ready with the region’s most comprehensive and advanced care for select high-risk pregnancies before, during and after delivery.

Diagnosis and testing for fetal conditions


Each year, nearly 400 families like yours visit the Perinatal Clinic at the Elizabeth J. Ferrell Fetal Health Center for a consultation. Here, you'll have access to advanced diagnostic services, like amniocentesis, fetal echocardiogram and diagnostic ultrasound to help your health care providers understand your baby’s condition. Our Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists coordinate with your obstetrician or primary care provider to balance the needs of both you and your baby.

The team at Children’s Mercy treats thousands of babies with complex conditions each year. Parents often want to know if we have seen a baby with a condition similar to theirs — the answer is yes. We see babies who have heart, gastrointestinal, lung, and other conditions that require immediate attention.

Every expert your child needs - including you


At Children’s Mercy, we build an integrated team that includes every specialist who will be involved with your baby’s treatment.

As an active member of your baby's care team, you will sit around the table with every specialist your child may need at one time. We'll talk directly with you about your child's diagnosis and treatment options and discuss all your questions and concerns. Then, we will work together to create the best possible plan of care.

Your team may also include:

  • Genetic counselors

  • Social workers

  • Obstetrics and care coordinator nurses

  • Anesthesiologists

  • Sonographers and radiologists who specialize in prenatal imaging

Your world revolves around your baby – ours does too.


There's no better place for a baby with complex medical needs than Children's Mercy. Our family-centered care approach helps you feel comfortable and informed during your time with us.

Some moms will deliver in our spacious and comfortable birthing suites – located right in the Fetal Health Center so their baby is always close by. Others will plan to deliver at another hospital, but come to Children's Mercy to meet with the doctors who will care for their baby after birth. Either way, you can work with the region’s best pediatric specialists right from the start.

Starting from your very first visit with us, you’ll have your own specially-trained care coordinator nurse who will get to know you and your family and stay with you every step of the way. He or she will help you with scheduling appointments, completing paperwork and communicating with all your doctors to make your experience as simple as possible. After your baby is born, you can continue to work with the doctors who already know your family's history in a friendly, child-centered environment.

See what you can expect when you visit

Clinical Services

Innovative partnerships between Children’s Mercy researchers and physicians make it possible to treat or manage certain problems before a baby is even born. Dr. Emanuel (Mike) Vlastos and the experienced Fetal Treatment Team offer minimally-invasive therapies as well as advanced fetal surgery for complex conditions such as repair for spina bifida and twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.

More than 1,000 babies have been delivered at the Fetal Health Center since the doors opened. Some of the first babies we delivered are now healthy, active grade-schoolers. For babies who need immediate care from their team of specialists or the region’s highest level neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Special Care Delivery provides a meaningful birthing experience for you and immediate access to health experts for your baby.

About one-third of families who come to the Fetal Health Center have a baby with a heart condition. As one of the top-ranking pediatric cardiology and heart surgery programs in the nation, Children's Mercy can help you through the process of getting an accurate diagnosis, understanding the condition, and finding the best possible course of treatment.

Children’s Mercy provides safe and specialized transportation services for pregnant mothers at least 20 weeks gestation who are in need of immediate access to a higher level of care. Our team includes specialists for both mom and baby and is ready for dispatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Conditions

The team at the Fetal Health Center works with expectant mothers to diagnose, evaluate and treat all types of conditions before the baby is born. The list below details many—though not all—the conditions that we commonly treat at the Fetal Health Center. 

The diaphragm fails to close during prenatal development and the contents from the abdomen move into the chest

Congenital Lung Conditions

Rare growth found within a baby’s lungs

The first part of the small intestine (the duodenum) does not completely develop

Birth defects which affect the esophagus (the tube that connects the back of the throat to the stomach) and/or trachea (the windpipe).

An opening in the abdominal wall with the intestines coming out usually to the right of the belly button (the umbilicus) that may cause the intestines to be irritated and not function well after delivery

A condition in which too much fluid builds up and puts pressure on the brain, commonly refer to hydrocephalus as “water on the brain”

A blocking in the intestine that may occur when there is not enough blood flow to the intestines during development

A baby's abdominal wall (stomach area) doesn’t close and abdominal organs stick out of the base of the umbilical cord (belly button)

Spina Bifida is a birth defect in which the spinal cord isn’t covered with skin and bone.

One identical twin isn’t receiving the necessary nutrients to grow from the shared placenta

Mom and baby who were cared for at the the Children's Mercy Fetal Health Center

Fetal Intervention and Surgery

Rapid advances in the field of fetal surgery make it possible to correct or manage certain life-threatening conditions even before a baby is born. Children’s Mercy cares for a growing number of moms and babies through fetal surgery each year.

Stories

Spina Bifida: Sarah and Hadley's story

At their 20-week ultrasound, Sarah and her husband, Jed, were excited to learn Sarah was carrying a baby girl. But their doctor also gave them some very serious news—their child had a neural tube defect called open myelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida. Sarah's doctor shared that fetal surgery might be an option for Hadley. Sarah and Jed turned to Dr. Emanuel "Mike" Vlastos at Children's Mercy to create a care plan.

Meet Sarah and Hadley
Baby Hadley, diagnosed with spina bifida and treated at Children's Mercy

Schizencephaly: Ajla and Audie's Story

Diagnosed at 23 weeks with a rare brain defect, schizencephaly, Ajla and Audie Leonard have received the advantage of specialized care from a wide range of Children’s Mercy’s health experts.

Meet Dr. Bennett

Meet Dr. Bennett, the Medical Director of the Fetal Health Center. Dr. Bennett shares the role of the Fetal Health Center in making an accurate diagnosis for unborn babies. See how the Fetal Health Center gives babies with known conditions the best opportunity for immediate care they need after birth.

The inspiration behind the Fetal Health Center


In 2010, Elizabeth J. and James E. Ferrell gave a generous gift that helped create the Fetal Health Center at Children's Mercy. In collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, the Center fosters local, national and international partnerships between researchers and physicians. Together, we are leading the way toward innovative treatment options for moms and babies.