High-Risk Pregnancy

For the vast majority of women, pregnancy follows a routine course. Some women, however, have medical difficulties related to their health or the health of their baby. These women experience what is called a high-risk pregnancy.

High-risk complications occur in only 6 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies. These complications can be serious and require special care to ensure the best possible outcome.

While some problems are unavoidable, UCSF perinatologists — obstetricians with special training and board certification in high-risk pregnancy care — work to minimize complications and help you achieve the healthiest pregnancy possible. Each year, we deliver hundreds of high-risk pregnancies. Our team of doctors, nurses and support staff coordinates all aspects of pregnancy care, from consultation, diagnosis and delivery, to long-term follow-up care for mothers and their babies.

A pregnancy may be considered high-risk for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:

  • The mother has medical conditions that began before pregnancy, such as diabetes
  • The mother develops a medical condition during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia
  • The mother experienced problems in a previous pregnancy, such as miscarriage
  • Problems are detected in the developing baby
  • Complications occur during pregnancy, such as premature labor
  • The mother is pregnant with multiples (twins or more)

At UCSF, we treat the full range of conditions that may affect a woman's pregnancy. Our doctors have special training in treating diabetes in pregnancy, preterm labor, recurrent miscarriages, and fetal abnormalities.

Fortunately, advances in technology have helped improve the diagnosis and treatment of high-risk pregnant women. UCSF provides specialized fetal imaging techniques, such as MRI, to detect various conditions in the mother and baby. Our Prenatal Diagnosis Center offers the latest tests used to evaluate a developing baby. Some of these tests are available in only a few centers nationwide, and can be performed as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Being pregnant with multiples doesn't necessarily mean that your pregnancy will be problematic. However, women carrying multiples do have a higher chance of developing complications such as high blood pressure and preterm labor. For this reason, all multiple pregnancies are considered high-risk.

Prenatal Care

Due to the higher risk of complications, women expecting multiples require special prenatal care. At UCSF, some of the differences in prenatal care include:

  • More Frequent Visits — We schedule prenatal visits more frequently than for a singleton pregnancy, so we can watch for early signs of complications.
  • Additional Testing — Because multiples and their moms are more likely to develop complications, they need more tests to diagnose problems and monitor fetal development.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.