A middle-of-the-night wakeup call has never gotten old for Christian M. Pettker, MD, a high-risk pregnancy specialist. “I am still excited when I get woken up at 3 a.m. for a delivery and watch a family bring a new life into the world,” says Dr. Pettker, who is chief of obstetrics and medical director of both the labor and birth unit and the maternal special care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. “It’s such a privilege and a joy.”
Witnessing a birth as a medical school student sold him on the field of obstetrics and gynecology, something he had never considered before that moment. “After that first delivery, I thought, ‘That was one of the most beautiful experiences I could ever participate in,’” he says. “That was what I knew I wanted to do when I got up every morning for the rest of my life.”
Dr. Pettker specializes in treating pregnant women with diabetes, hypertension, lupus, as well as multiple pregnancies or those with fetal abnormalities. “We’re really good at taking care of high-risk pregnancies like they are low-risk ones,” he says. “When women have a problem with their pregnancy or they have a medical problem and they become pregnant, they focus on the problem. When we show them that we will not only take care of their problems, but give them a normal experience, that is a big relief.”
However, not every high-risk pregnancy goes well, Dr. Pettker acknowledges. “For pregnancies with serious complications, there can be a huge sense of loss, and to help people get through those tragic moments can also be rewarding,” he says.
His research focuses on making the delivery environment safer for pregnant women and their newborn babies. “Yale has been a leader in healthcare safety and quality, particularly in obstetrics,” says Dr. Pettker, who is also an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at Yale School of Medicine. “A lot of our work has had great outcomes and has become a model for other programs around the country.