Help offered for high-risk pregnancies


The mothers-to-be who pass through the doors of Harbor Hospital Center's new fetal assessment center all have one thing in common: high-risk pregnancies.

Some are diabetic. Some experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. Some have sickle cell disease. Some are near the end of their child-bearing years.

Others fear complications from the alcohol or drugs they took -- prescription or otherwise -- when they did not realize they were pregnant.

Dr. Pedro Arrabal, a perinatologist and the center's medical director, estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of the women he sees have problems with cocaine.

For those women, Dr. Arrabal said, "the main thing we do is try to counsel them. If they're involved with heroin, we try to get them involved in a methadone program."

The center, opened in June, draws most of its patients from South Baltimore, Brooklyn Park and Glen Burnie. It allows mothers to have numerous tests and evaluations done at a single facility. The women who go to the center are referred by their physicians.

"It's a lot more convenient for our neighborhood population to have to come here than to drive miles away to be evaluated somewhere else," said Dr. Arrabal.

The center's staff includes a sonographer, a genetic counselor and an obstetrics and gynecological nurse.

Jennifer Cassetta, 20, of Glen Burnie said it was June before she realized she was three months pregnant with her first child -- a girl she already has named Brittany Marie Thornhill.

Ms. Cassetta was referred to the center after her doctor became concerned about tests indicating possible irregularities or complications.

The center did an amniocentesis test to rule out the possibility of the baby having cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome. Though a sonogram revealed what could be a mildly dilated nerve to the posterior of the baby's brain, Ms. Cassetta said that Dr. Arrabal "feels everything is going to be fine."

Robin Thomas, 23, of Glen Burnie went to the center for two months after she started experiencing high blood pressure and swelling in her hand and face during the middle part of her pregnancy.

She went twice a week for tests to make sure the baby's heart was beating adequately and its lungs were developing properly.

On Sept. 28, a healthy Alexander Thomas was born, weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces.

L The Thomas family found the center convenient to their home.

"My husband and my 2-year-old went with me and they'd wait for me," Mrs. Thomas said.

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