In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors: Making sure mom and baby are safe and healthy

Helping pregnant women through unexpected problems

Sponsored by the John A. Burns School of Medicine and University Health Partners of Hawaii

In 2016, Kristina Kawakami was pregnant with her first child, Elise. In a heartbreaking turn of events, when Kawakami was 36 weeks pregnant, Elise was stillborn.

“My husband and I were just devastated. It was really the hardest thing to lose our child so late in the pregnancy,” Kawakami says. “We knew we wanted to try again, and so we sought out Dr. Lee and the maternal fetal medicine doctors.”

Dr. Men-Jean Lee is a board certified Maternal Fetal Medicine physician for University Health Partners of Hawaii (UHP). Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) is a sub-specialty of obstetrics and gynecology that focuses on the care for women that face unexpected problems developed during pregnancy.

“We’re really lucky that most pregnancies are joyous and happy occasions. However, most couples can’t even imagine the things that could go wrong with a pregnancy and that’s where the maternal fetal medicine doctors come in,” Dr. Lee says. “It’s up to us to make sure that the patient and her baby are delivered in the safest way possible.”

Since UHP employs the majority of MFMs in the state, Dr. Lee says these doctors have seen a lot of complicated maternity health cases. These range from women who have developed cancer during their pregnancy and need to undergo chemo to babies in utero that have some sort of obstruction and need to have a procedure done prior to even being born.

“We chose to go with Dr. Lee and the MFM specialists because we knew they would provide the high level of care that we needed,” Kawakami explains. Being over age 35, having just had an unsuccessful pregnancy and an autoimmune condition similar to lupus, she was a high-risk pregnancy.

“Dr. Lee was always so positive and always reassured me that everything would be fine,” Kawakami says. “She was really the calming presence that I needed during the pregnancy because I was so anxious and very emotional the whole time.”

At the end of 36 weeks, Emi, a healthy baby girl, was born. “We’re so thankful for Emi every day,” says Kawakami. “Emi is not a replacement for our daughter Elise, but we’re so thankful and she brings us so much joy every day.”

For those seeking the help of an MFM specialist, seek out a referral from your own OBGYN. If someone is in need of an OBGYN, call 808-671-0090 or visit to make an appointment and become a new patient.

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