IU Health Bedford Hospital

Later Arrival: First-Time Parents To Be Get Help From Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist

We are IU Health

July 06, 2018

Cupping her hands to nurture the bundle in front of her, Indiana University Professor Shruti Rana beams. She and her husband, also an IU professor, are about to take on new roles that will likely teach them a lesson or two. They are becoming first-time parents.

Flashing a pearly smile and smoothing her dark chestnut hair, beautiful Shruti could pass for 25, but her baby-making timer suggests otherwise. At just over 40, she is happy to be an expectant mother, and comforted to have a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) expert close by.

“Given my age, doctors said I should keep an eye out for any problems,” says the soon-to-be mom. IU Health Physician, Mary Pell Abernathy, MD, arrived in Bloomington at the end of March and began seeing patients. One of her first was Shruti.

“It was great news when she opened this practice, just in time for my 36-week ultrasound,” Shruti says. A week-and-a-half later, with Shruti watching, Abernathy describes the baby girl as she appears on the ultrasound monitor.

“She’s got hair and look at her lips, she’s got beautiful lips and a sweet nose,” Abernathy says of the baby’s outward features. Listening, she declares her heartbeat to be strong and her kidneys perfectly shaped.

The joy on the expectant mother’s face is unmistakable.

“There is no shortage of scary thoughts you can have when you’re pregnant. Knowing that Dr. Abernathy thinks everything looks normal is very reassuring,” Shruti says.

Shruti and her husband, David Gamage, planned for this baby. Originally from California, the two have been chasing career goals, often times separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. They married in 2013 and began to look for opportunities to bring them together – permanently in one location. Just more than a year ago, the couple interviewed for positions at IU. He landed a position at the Maurer School of Law teaching tax law. She teaches international law at the IU School of Global and International Studies.

When they landed the jobs, they knew the time had come to grow their family. Within a short time she was expecting. On this spring day, just shy of nine months later, baby Eva Rana-Gamage is tossing about regularly in mommy’s tummy, weighing in at an estimated healthy 5 ½ to 6 pounds. A normal birth weight is expected.

Shruti says she has enjoyed her pregnancy, eating healthy (sneaking in an occasional coffee) and taking walks. She says baby Eva offers only one notable complaint as she awaits her arrival.

“She doesn’t seem to like chocolate,” Shruti says with a smile. “Every time I eat it, I get heartburn.”

Maternal Fetal Medicine expert comes to Bloomington

Donning a crisp physician’s coat and flashing a warm smile, Dr. Abernathy strolls into her patient’s room with confidence and compassion—a pairing that helps her conquer the most difficult cases.

Dr. Abernathy is new to the area—the only MFM in the IU Health South Central Region. She is conveniently located in office space with Riley Physicians and IU Health Children’s Therapy, just off Arlington Road in Bloomington.

Every day as an MFM is an opportunity to distill complex congenital issues and compassionately explain the conditions to parents. She speaks softly, but professionally.

“The parents desperately want to know if everything is developing normally. If not, they want to try to understand what it means – now and in the future. An MFM has to try to be a good communicator, to help parents move forward. That’s what I strive to convey.

“We closely follow the growth of the baby, developing a targeted, more extensive ultrasound,” she says. She gets referrals for all kinds of high-risk pregnancy complications: gestational diabetes, age-related pregnancies, hypertension and babies with development issues – heart defects, spinal bifida or organ problems.

Sometimes the patient is expecting multiples.

“Whatever the case, we help them navigate the journey. We want them to have a good outcome in their pregnancy,” she says.

On this day, Abernathy reaches out to do a tummy check on her patient. She’s exuberant, speaking ever so kindly of the little one she sees on the monitor. The expectant mother responds in kind. Everything is going to be fine.

Doctor in Detail

Q: Where did you grow up?

On a hobby farm in Avon. I was one of six kids, just like the Brady Bunch. I’m the fourth of six. I loved being outdoors. We had chores and animals, but we also had fun. We would have races on the lawn mower, etc.

Q: Where did you go to college and for what?

I went to Purdue for my undergraduate degree in biology, to Indiana University for Medical School and to IU Indianapolis for my residency and fellowship training.

Q: When did you decide to become an MFM?

I always thought I would be a cardiologist. When I was a child, my neighbor died from a heart attack and I felt so helpless. But in my third year of medical school, while on rotation, I was in the OB/GYN area and saw young, hopeful patients who were sick with complications, but able to recover with a physician’s care. I loved the idea of taking care of someone like that. I’ve been an MFM since 1996.

Q: Not every day can you deliver good news. How do you handle that?

I find MFMs are usually good communicators. I have to be a “good read” of people, and I have to be able to communicate with them “where they are at” – meaning I have to understand their mental frames of mind.

Q: What’s a typical day for you?

I start at 7 am and do about six ultrasounds a day and 10 to 12 tummy checks on patients.

Q: What keeps you busy outside of work?

My husband Greg and a crazy, black lab named Lucy. I also have a daughter, Morgan, 22, who graduated in May from Rice University in Houston. I am also working toward my Kelley Physician MBA. I plan to finish in May 2018.

Featured IU Health Physicians provider seeing patients for high-risk pregnancies:
Mary Pell Abernathy, MD
812.353.2300

Share This Story

Related Services

Women's Health

Women’s healthcare begins in adolescence and includes gynecological and obstetrical care, and breast health.

Maternity

Maternity services provide medical and other support for mother and baby throughout pregnancy and childbirth.

Ultrasound

Noninvasive, painless imaging that uses sound waves to create images to aid in diagnosis.

Endocrine Disorders In Pregnancy

Hormonal imbalances can indicate endocrine problems that can occur during pregnancy as part of a preexisting or new condition.