Within this information, we may use the terms "woman" and "women". However, we recognise that not only people who identify as women may want to access this content. Your care should be personalised, inclusive and sensitive to your needs, whatever your gender identity.
The Foetal Medicine Unit (FMU) at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) provides specialist care for unborn babies of pregnant women receiving maternity care at Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospitals. UHB's obstetric service is one of the largest in the country.
Across our communications and signage you may see the word "foetal" and "foetus" also spelled as "fetal" and "fetus". Please don't worry – these are alternative ways to spell the same words, but all these spellings are legitimate.
The FMU provides screening, diagnostic and counselling services to women with pregnancies complicated by various conditions and multiple pregnancies. This includes invasive testing and procedures, as outlined below. We receive referrals from sonographers, midwife sonographers, obstetricians and midwives from all three sites.
The FMU is located on the ground floor of the Acorn Suite of the Princess of Wales Unit at Heartlands Hospital.
The Foetal Medicine Unit is led by a team of highly skilled specialist doctors, who offer diagnosis and treatment of complications which may arise in unborn babies. Midwives form part of the team, and are available for routine and specialist midwifery advice and support during your care.
The team includes:
- Maternity support workers
- Clerical officers
First trimester (up to 12 weeks of pregnancy)
- Detailed foetal assessment and counselling after a high-risk result on Down’s syndrome screening, or at the request of the sonographer or consultant obstetrician
- Invasive testing, counselling before and after the test
- This involves chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which is used to check if your baby has a genetic or chromosomal condition, such as Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome or Patau's syndrome
- CVS involves removing and testing a small sample of cells from the placenta, which connects the mother's and unborn baby's blood supplies
Second and third trimesters (13 to 41 weeks of pregnancy)
- Detailed foetal anomaly ultrasound assessment, and counselling, in high-risk cases such as previous pregnancy or family history of genetic conditions
- Foetal echocardiography
- This is a scan of your unborn baby's heart
- Detailed foetal ultrasound assessment
- We also offer counselling for those with suspected anomalies (problems with your baby)
- Invasive testing and procedures, with counselling before and after where required. These include:
- chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
- These tests are used to check if your baby has a genetic or chromosomal condition, such as Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome or Patau's syndrome
- amniodrainage, which removes some of the amniotic fluid which surrounds your baby in the womb
- foeticide (terminating the pregnancy)
- Detailed foetal ultrasound assessment in those at risk of foetal anaemia due to maternal antibodies (the antibodies passed from mother to child to help protect from illness)
- Management of high-risk pregnancies, working with other teams as required
- Detailed assessment and counselling of patients with suspected placenta accreta spectrum (a complication of pregnancy involving the placenta)
- Rainbow placenta clinic, in conjunction with bereavement midwives
We also provide multiple other pregnancy services.
Other teams and referrals
- We work closely with our neonatal and other paediatric specialist colleagues in cardiology, surgery, neurology and clinical genetics
- The FMU is supported by two neonatal units - one each at Good Hope and Heartlands hospitals
- We also work very closely with the Bereavement team across both sites
Some patients are referred to the Regional Tertiary Fetal Medicine Centre at Birmingham Women’s Hospital for therapeutic procedures or a second opinion. In keeping with regional guidelines, pregnancies complicated with foetal cardiac abnormalities (heart problems in the baby) are also referred to the Regional Paediatric Cardiology Service for assessment and plan of management.
What to expect at your appointment
When you arrive at the FMU, please report to our reception desk, where we will check you in.
When you've checked in, we will call you to one of the scan rooms. We will take your medical and obstetric history and tell you on what will happen during the scan.
Once you are happy with this, the scan of your baby will commence.
After the scan, we will explain the results and give you time to ask questions.
We will discuss your options and make any further appointments.
UHB is a teaching and training hospital trust. Therefore, there may be several members of staff present during your appointment, including the consultant, a senior trainee and the midwife running the clinic. There may also be visiting doctors, medical students and student midwives. They will all introduce themselves and you should be asked whether or not you are comfortable to continue.
If at any point you feel uncomfortable with the number of people present, please let the team know.
While we make every effort to see you on time, delays can occur due to the nature of the clinics. However, we will always try to keep you informed of when you are likely to be seen.
We're aware that you may be anxious about your appointment. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our midwives.
Pregnancy Assessment Emergency Room, Heartlands Hospital
Last reviewed: 09 May 2023