Catherine Steen knows all too well how serious it can be to have a high-risk
pregnancy. She and her husband, Luke, went through the pain of a miscarriage
and then the loss of their baby, Ella, who died just four days after birth
from a serious lung condition. When the Steens realized they were expecting
for a third time, they found a doctor at
Mission Hospital who specialized in caring for mother and baby in high-risk pregnancies.
“As soon as I found Dr. Pan, I knew I was in good hands. She is incredibly
smart, detail orientated and an expert in her field. Additionally, she
is kind, compassionate and always makes me feel comfortable,” says
Catherine, 37, of Ladera Ranch.
Vivien Pan, MD, perinatologist, board certified Fellow of the American
College of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FACOG), followed
Catherine’s pregnancy closely, monitoring her every two weeks. Catherine
went into early labor and delivered at 34 weeks; her premature baby spent
time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before going home. Catherine’s
next two pregnancies were similar with preterm labor and early deliveries,
and time spent in the NICU. With her most recent pregnancy, she was hospitalized,
after preterm premature rupture of membranes and required an emergency
C-section for delivery. Through it all, Dr. Pan was by her side, caring
for and delivering all three of her now healthy daughters.
“I wanted desperately to be a mom, and there was a time in my life
when I wasn’t sure that was going to be possible. It feels amazing
to have three little girls — it makes all of the time in the hospital
and the NICU beyond worth it,” Catherine says, motherof 3-year-old
Clara, 2-year-old Isla and her youngest, Nora, who was born in December
2015. “I am so incredibly grateful for Dr. Pan and the team at Mission
Hospital for caring for us, guiding us and helping us fulfill our dream
of bringing our babies home.”
The Maternity Center at Mission Hospital helps bring more than 3,000 new babies into the world each year. And it’s
no secret why—the labor and delivery nurses are passionate about
the level of high quality care they provide, the facilities are advanced,
and the specialized physicians and nurses are prepared around-the-clock
to react quickly in high-risk or urgent situations like Catherine’s.
HIGH-RISK PREGNANCIES HANDLED WITH CARE
The hospital’s Perinatal Diagnostic and Treatment Center is a referral
service for high-risk pregnancies, such as multiple births, fetal anomalies,
advanced maternal age, or for someone who has a history of stillbirth
or pregnancy loss, preterm labor, diabetes or thyroid disease, among other
The PDTC is staffed by Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) physician subspecialists
(also known as perinatologists). These are specialized obstetrician/gynecologists
(OB-GYNs) who have completed three years of additional formal education
and clinical experience, beyond the general four-year residency program,
within a board approved fellowship program demonstrating competency in
the diagnosis and treatment of women with complications in pregnancy.
These physicians carefully assess the health of both mother and baby.
“Often times, we see patients who have struggled with pregnancies
in the past and either suffered miscarriages or had a premature baby with
many health problems after birth,” says Dr. Pan, PDTC director.
“When we see a mother who has experienced something like that, our
goal is to make sure with the subsequent pregnancy that both mom and baby
are healthy. If we can do that, we know we’ve done something wonderful
for a family.”
24/7 RESPONSE TO URGENT SITUATIONS
It can happen within moments: sudden fetal distress, an emergency C-section
or a postpartum hemorrhage. Similar in concept to the “hospitalist”
and “intensivist” physician roles that have developed within
hospitals in recent years, a “laborist” is a board certified,
highly experienced obstetrician who is available in the hospital 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. They are immediately available to assist nurses
and OB-GYNs in the labor and delivery unit with any urgent situation.
Patrick Thein, MD, was instrumental in implementing a laborist program at Mission Hospital
in 2012. For Dr. Thein, the laborist program was vital to ensuring the
utmost patient safety for all mothers and babies under Mission Hospital’s care.
“Labor & Delivery is a critical care unit,” says Victoria
McKinney, RN, MS, NEA-BC and executive director for women and infant services
at Mission Hospital. “We have two lives at stake at any moment,
and everything can change instantly. The laborist program is a safety
net for mothers, babies, nurses and physicians.”
For example, a high-risk pregnant mother may go into pre-term labor and
be admitted to the hospital. “Even though the perinatologist may
be able to look at the mother’s vitals and information related to
labor on an iPhone when he/she isn’t at the hospital, the physician
still has travel time to get to the hospital,” she says. “Five
minutes can make all the difference in the world in an emergency labor
situation, so our laborists and experienced nurses are here to help the
mom safely deliver in the event that the attending physician can’t
make it in time.”
Mission Hospital averages about 10 interventions a month during which a
laborist steps in to assist an emergency situation.
SPECIALIZED TEAMS & TECHNOLOGY WORKING TOGETHER
Mission Hospital’s labor and delivery and obstetric nurses average
more than 20 years of experience, with over 40 percent of the nurses specially
trained with advanced certification in fetal monitoring and inpatient
obstetric care. The highly trained nurses, attending OB-GYNs, perinatologists,
laborists and neonatologists — a pediatric subspecialty that cares
for ill or premature newborn infants at CHOC Children’s neonatal
intensive care unit on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital — work
closely together to incorporate the best practices and provide a seamless
continuum of high quality care.
The hospital also offers the most advanced ultrasound technology available
in the industry, capable of 3D/4D images as well as several other special
techniques to see closely into the anatomy of mother and baby. These imaging
capabilities assist in patient diagnosis and plan of care.
“With experienced doctors and nurses, coupled with advanced technology,
we are able to take care of all pregnant patients, whether they’re
high risk, or they require hospitalization or frequent diagnostic monitoring,” says
Dr. Marvin D. Posner, perinatologist and board certified FACOG. “We’re proud of
the quality care and service we provide our maternity patients at Mission
Are you pregnant or do you know someone who is? Let our nurses and physicians
work together to manage any situation that may arise in pregnancy —
after all, caring for mother and baby is what we do, and the safety of
both is our top priority.
For more information on Mission Hospital’s Maternity Center, go to
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.