High-Risk 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.

    Ultrasounds are performed every four to six weeks to ensure that your babies are growing normally. You also may decide to have additional genetic testing, although it can be more complicated to test multiples than singletons. Your provider or a genetic counselor at the Prenatal Diagnosis Center can answer any questions you have about which tests are best for you.

UCSF's Great Expectations prenatal education program offers special classes for families expecting multiples.

Premature Birth

One of the reasons multiple pregnancies are considered higher risk is because 50 percent of them deliver prematurely. A premature delivery occurs prior to 37 weeks of gestation, while a normal full-term pregnancy lasts 38 to 42 weeks. Every effort is made to prolong your pregnancy as long as possible, to reduce some of the risks that may occur when babies are delivered prematurely. Premature infants may have problems with breathing and digesting.

Should your babies be born early or experience any other complications that require the care of a neonatologist — a pediatrician specializing in the care of sick newborns — access to renowned experts and services is available at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, one of the highest-ranked pediatric programs in California. The hospital has state-of-the-art facilities to care for premature newborns, including the Intensive Care Nursery.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.