Health Information

High-Risk Pregnancy

  • Digestive and Liver Disorders Overview
  • Maternal and Fetal Testing Overview
  • Maternal and Fetal Infections Overview

    Treating maternal and fetal infections can be tricky during pregnancy. Learn more about these infections.

  • First Trimester Screening

    First trimester screening combines fetal ultrasound and blood tests for the mother. It’s done during the first trimester of pregnancy, during weeks 1 to 12 or 13. It can help find out the risk of the fetus having certain birth defects.

  • Newborn Multiples

    Because many multiples are small and born early, they may be initially cared for in a special care nursery called the neonatal intensive care unit.

  • Second Trimester Prenatal Screening Tests

    Screening is usually performed by taking a sample of the mother's blood between the 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy (16th to 18th is ideal).

  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

    Alpha-fetoprotein screening is a blood test that measures the level of AFP in the mothers' blood. Abnormal levels may indicate certain problems with the fetus.

  • HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

    A mother with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding.

  • Anemia in Pregnancy

    Anemia is when your blood has too few red blood cells. Having too few red blood cells makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen or iron. This can affect how cells work in nerves and muscles. During pregnancy, your baby also needs your blood.

  • Amniocentesis

    Detailed information on amniocentesis, including potential risks and benefits

  • Hydramnios

    In this condition, there is too much amniotic fluid around your baby during pregnancy. It happens in about 1 in 100 pregnancies.

  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome in Pregnancy

    Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune disease. This happens when your immune system fights against normal cells. This condition may also be called Hughes syndrome, sticky blood syndrome, and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

  • Autoimmune Diseases

    Detailed information on autoimmune diseases and pregnancy

  • Myasthenia Gravis and Pregnancy

    Myasthenia gravis is a complex autoimmune disorder. It causes antibodies to destroy the connections between your muscles and nerves. This causes muscle weakness and tiredness.

  • Lupus and Pregnancy

    Many women with lupus give birth to healthy children. The key to a successful pregnancy is know how lupus affects your body.

  • Placenta Previa

    Bleeding can happen at any time during pregnancy. Placenta previa can cause bleeding late in pregnancy. This means after about 20 weeks.

  • Biophysical Profile

    A biophysical profile is a test that is sometimes used during the third trimester of pregnancy. It is often done if there is a question about the baby’s health. This may be because of other test results or certain pregnancy symptoms, or because your pregnancy is high risk.

  • Pregnancy and Pre-existing Heart Disease

    Pre-existing heart disease is a heart problem that you had before you got pregnant. This usually means a heart condition that you were born with (congenital). These can include heart problems that may have been fixed. It can also include heart valve issues.

  • Cholestasis of Pregnancy

    Cholestasis of pregnancy is a liver problem. It slows or stops the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder. This causes itching and yellowing of your skin, eyes, and mucous membranes (jaundice). Cholestasis sometimes starts in early pregnancy. But it is more common in the second and third trimesters. It most often goes away within a few days after delivery. The high levels of bile may cause serious problems for your developing baby (fetus).

  • Chorioamnionitis

    Chorioamnionitis [chor-y-oh-am-nee-oh-NY-tis] is an infection of the placenta and the amniotic fluid. Only a few women get it, but, it is a common cause of preterm labor and delivery.

  • Chorionic Villus Sampling

    Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test done early in a woman’s pregnancy. CVS checks for genetic problems in your baby. During CVS, your healthcare provider takes a small piece of tissue from the placenta for testing.

  • Doppler Flow Study

    Doppler flow is a type of ultrasound. It uses sound waves to measure the flow of blood through a blood vessel. The results are shown on a computer screen in lines called waveforms. It’s sometimes called Doppler velocimetry. A Doppler flow study may be used during pregnancy to check the health of the unborn baby (fetus).

  • Diabetes During Pregnancy

    Diabetes is a condition in which the body can't make enough insulin, or can't use insulin normally. Insulin is a hormone. It helps sugar (glucose) in the blood get into cells of the body to be used as fuel. When glucose can’t enter the cells, it builds up in the blood. This is called high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

  • Digestive and Liver Disorders

    Detailed information on digestive and liver disorders during pregnancy

  • Ectopic Pregnancy

    A pregnancy that develops outside the uterus is called ectopic pregnancy. This nearly always happens in a fallopian tube. So it’s often called tubal pregnancy. Rarely, an ectopic pregnancy will happen in an ovary, in the cervix, or the belly (abdomen).

  • Fetal Blood Sampling

    Fetal blood sampling is a procedure to take a small amount of blood from an unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy. Fetal blood sampling is usually done by a perinatologist with special training. This is a doctor who specializes in the care of babies in high-risk pregnancies.

  • Fetal Monitoring

    In pregnancy and during labor, your doctor will want to check the health of your unborn baby (fetus). This is done by check the baby’s heart rate and other functions. Monitoring can be done on the outside of your belly (external monitoring). Or it may be done directly on the baby while inside the womb (internal monitoring). Fetal monitoring is a very common procedure.

  • Fetal Movement Counting

    Fetal movement counting is a way to check the health of a woman’s unborn baby (fetus). It’s often called kick counting. It’s done by counting the number of kicks you feel from your baby in the womb in a certain time period.

  • Genetics

    Genetics is the study of the patterns of inheritance - how traits and characteristics are passed from parents to their children.

  • HELLP Syndrome

    HELLP syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition in pregnancy. It causes red cells in the blood to break down. It also causes problems with the liver, bleeding, and blood pressure. It is often linked with preeclampsia and eclampsia. It often develops before delivery. But it may also occur after delivery.

  • Herpes

    It is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy, because a first episode during pregnancy creates a greater risk of transmission to the newborn.

  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum

    Many pregnant women have some nausea and sometimes vomiting in the first trimester. A few pregnant women have a severe kind of nausea and vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum. These women often lose weight, and get dehydrated. They may also have changes in the body's chemical processes.

  • Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy

    When a woman has pre-existing hypertension or develops hypertension before the 20th week of pregnancy, this is called chronic hypertension.

  • Graves Disease in Pregnancy

    Graves disease is a condition where the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy.

  • Home Page - High-Risk Pregnancy

    Detailed information on high-risk pregnancy

  • Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR)

    Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is a condition in which an unborn baby (fetus) is smaller than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy (gestational age). It is often described as an estimated weight less than the 10th percentile. This means that the baby weighs less than 9 out of 10 babies of the same gestational age. Newborn babies with FGR may be called “small for gestational age.”

  • Urinary Tract and Kidney Infections

    During pregnancy, the kidney enlarges and the bladder is compressed by the growing uterus. These and other factors make it more likely for a woman to develop a urinary tract infection.

  • Listeriosis

    You’ve probably been warned not to eat brie cheese or order your steak cooked to anything less than medium. Why do you have to take these precautions? Listeriosis. Learn more about this food-borne illness and how to avoid it.

  • Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy

    AFLP is a rare, but serious, liver problem in pregnancy. With AFLP the liver cells have too much fat, which can damage the liver. 

  • Overview of Pregnancy Loss

    Pregnancy loss is the death of an unborn baby (fetus) at any time during pregnancy. Pregnancy loss may occur in as many as 1 in every 4 pregnancies. Most pregnancy losses happen during the first trimester.

  • Pregnancy Loss

    Detailed information on pregnancy loss, including types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

  • The Lungs in Pregnancy

    Detailed anatomical information on the respiratory system in pregnancy

  • Maternal and Fetal Testing

    Women with high-risk pregnancies often need a close watch for potential problems or complications. Many tests and procedures are available to monitor the health of both mother and baby.

  • Maternal and Fetal Infections

    In pregnancy, infections are a common complication—but women may not have obvious symptoms, or they may show different symptoms of an infection.

  • Miscarriage

    Ultrasound is usually used to diagnose miscarriage. If the fetus is no longer in the uterus, or there is no longer a fetal heartbeat, miscarriage is diagnosed.

  • Pregnancy and the Nervous System

    Do you know how your nervous system works? This system coordinates all your body’s activities, and chances are it’s functioning normally during your pregnancy. In the rare case that it’s not, here’s what you need to know.

  • Epilepsy During Pregnancy

    Epilepsy is a disorder of the nervous system. It is also called a seizure disorder. Normally the body's nerves send information by electrical and chemical signals. People with epilepsy have abnormal electrical signals in the brain. This can cause a seizure. Seizures can cause severe shaking of muscles. Or they may be very mild with hardly any symptoms at all.

  • Neurological Conditions and Pregnancy

    Detailed information on neurologic conditions in pregnancy

  • Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy

    Many women have migraine headaches while pregnant. The good news is that you don’t have to give in to the pain when it strikes. Know what pain-relief options are safest for you.

  • Nonstress Testing

    A nonstress test is a type of test done during pregnancy. It measures the heart rate of the unborn baby (fetus) in response to its movements. In most cases, the heart rate of a healthy baby increases when the baby moves.

  • Nutrition Before Pregnancy

    You need about 300 extra calories a day after the first trimester to maintain a healthy pregnancy. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains.

  • Online Resources - High-Risk Pregnancy

    List of online resources to find additional information on high-risk pregnancies

  • Pregnancy Over Age 30

    Many women today are waiting until later in life to have children. In the United States, birth rates for women in their 30s are at the highest levels in four decades.

  • Pregnancy Complications

    Detailed information on the most common complications during pregnancy

  • Pregnancy and Medical Conditions

    Detailed information on pregnancy and medical conditions

  • Gestational Hypertension

    Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure in pregnancy. It occurs in about 3 in 50 pregnancies.

  • Postpartum Hemorrhage

    Postpartum hemorrhage is more bleeding than normal after the birth of a baby. About 1 in 100 to 5 in 100 women have postpartum hemorrhage. It is more likely with a cesarean birth. It most often occurs after the placenta is delivered, but it can also occur later.

  • Post-Term Pregnancy

    A pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks is called post-term. A pregnancy that is between 41 and 42 weeks is called late-term. Most women deliver between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Preconception Care

    Detailed information on preconception care

  • Prenatal Counseling

    Detailed information on prenatal diagnosis to detect fetal abnormalities in the womb

  • Risk Factors

    Detailed information on identifying potential risks of a pregnancy as an important part of preconception care

  • Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM)

    Preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM) is a pregnancy complication. In this condition, the sac (amniotic membrane) surrounding your baby breaks (ruptures) before week 37 of pregnancy. Once the sac breaks, you have an increased risk for infection. You also have a higher chance of having your baby born early.

  • Preterm Labor

    Preterm labor is labor that starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Labor is when the uterus regularly tightens and the cervix starts to thin and open. This lets the baby (fetus) enter the birth canal.

  • Rh Disease

    Rh disease occurs during pregnancy. It happens when the Rh factors in the mom’s and baby’s blood don’t match. It may also happen if the mom and baby have different blood types.  

  • Sickle Cell Disease and Pregnancy

    How sickle cell disease affects pregnancy depends on whether you have sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait.

  • Topic Index - High-Risk Pregnancy

    Detailed information on high-risk pregnancy

  • Stillbirth

    Stillbirth is a common term for death of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Thyroid Conditions

    Detailed information on thyroid conditions and pregnancy

  • Toxoplasmosis

    Toxoplasmosis is not only harmful to moms-to-be, but also to their unborn babies. If you haven’t heard of toxoplasmosis, you’ll definitely want to brush up on this new word.

  • Medical Genetics: Types of Genetic Changes

    Genetic changes come in two main types: chromosome abnormalities and single-gene defects.

  • Ultrasound in Pregnancy

    Detailed information on ultrasound and the potential risks and benefits

  • Care and Management of Multiple Pregnancy

    A woman with a multiple pregnancy needs more calories and nutrients, more frequent prenatal visits, and more rest.

  • Alcohol and Pregnancy

    Alcohol consumption by the mother is a leading cause of preventable birth defects in the fetus. In addition, the risk for miscarriage and stillbirth increases with alcohol consumption.

  • Complications of Multiple Pregnancy

    Having more than one baby is especially exciting—and complicated. Find out what to watch for, including a greater chance of anemia and preterm birth.

  • Gestational Diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy. The symptoms of gestational diabetes usually go away after delivery. But sometimes they do not, or you may develop type 2 diabetes later.

  • Illegal Drug Use and Pregnancy

    Almost every drug passes from the mother's bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus. Illicit substances that cause drug dependence and addiction in the mother also cause the fetus to become addicted.

  • Medical Conditions and Pregnancy

    With proper medical care, most women can enjoy a healthy pregnancy, even with medical challenges, like diabetes or high blood pressure.

  • Medicines and Pregnancy

    All medicines you take affect the fetus, depending on the stage of development, the type and dosage of the medicine being taken, and your drug tolerance.

  • Multiple Pregnancy

    Detailed information on multiple pregnancies, including care of multiple birth babies

  • Overview of Multiple Pregnancy

    Multiple pregnancy is a pregnancy with 2 or more fetuses. In the United States, the multiple birth rate is rising.

  • Planning a Pregnancy

    Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.

  • Postpartum Thyroiditis

    Postpartum thyroiditis happens when a woman’s thyroid becomes inflamed after having a baby. It may first cause your thyroid to be overactive. But in time it leads to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). A small portion of pregnant women get this health problem.

  • Asthma and Pregnancy

    With proper asthma management and good prenatal care, most women with asthma can have healthy pregnancies.

  • Smoking and Pregnancy

    Don't smoke during your pregnancy and limit how much time you spend in environments where there is secondhand smoke.

  • Symptoms and Diagnosis of Multiple Pregnancy

    Every pregnant woman feels like she’s getting big, but if you’re pregnant with 2 or more babies, you’ll really be growing fast. Be prepared by learning the signs of a multiple birth.

  • Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy

    Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disorder. Pregnancy does not appear to speed up or MS or worsen its effects.

  • Overview of Birth Defects

    A "birth defect" is a health problem or physical change that is present in a baby at the time he/she is born.

  • Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy

    Signs of an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) may be masked by pregnancy. But the thyroid is important for your baby’s brain development. Learn if you should be screened for hypothyroidism.