High-Risk Pregnancy

Specialized maternity care for special circumstances

Every mother-to-be hopes for an easy, trouble-free pregnancy. But the reality is, that is not always the case. Your pregnancy is considered high risk if the you or your baby has a condition that increases the chances of a health problem during or before birth. These conditions may be pre-existing from before you became pregnant, or they may develop during your pregnancy. 

What Makes a Pregnancy High Risk?

A pregnancy can be considered high risk if there is a problem with the mother or baby or both. High risk situations involving the baby include genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome or problems with the lungs, heart or kidneys. Your pregnancy may also be considered high risk if you are younger than 17 or older than 35, or if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. 

Other problems that may cause your pregnancy to be high risk include:

• Alcohol, drug or cigarette use
• Gestational diabetes (high blood sugar)
• Infections, such as HIV, hepatitis C or rubella (German measles)
• Pregnancy of multiples (twins, triplets or more)
• Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
• Preterm labor (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
• Preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure and problems with kidneys and other organs)
• Problems with past pregnancies, such as preterm labor or preeclampsia
• Three or more previous miscarriages
• Using certain medications, such as lithium

High Risk Pregnancy Services

If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, IU Health offers services and support to help ensure a safe delivery for both you and your baby. 

Care for Multiples

Expecting more than one baby is exciting, but it also increases the risk for complications. If you are expecting multiples, your care will include more frequent prenatal visits to check on the health of you and your babies. This will help detect complications early enough for effective treatment or management.

Cesarean Section

In some cases, a cesarean section (C-section) is needed to deliver a high risk pregnancy safely. You may know in advance that this is necessary and your delivery can be scheduled. Other times, your physician may help you decide that you need a cesarean during your labor process.

Genetic Counseling

Our staff of physicians and genetic counselors provide individualized counseling to help you and your partner determine your chances of having a baby with a birth defect or genetic problem. It can also help to identify patterns of inherited problems, if any exist. The counselor will answer your questions and review your family and pregnancy history.

High-Resolution Ultrasound

High-resolution ultrasounds offer a very clear picture of your baby and help your doctor monitor the baby’s growth as well as the health or both you and the baby. Ultrasounds do not emit radiation and are safe for both you and your baby, with no known risks.

IU Health Lifeline

In the event of an unexpected complication at a location that is not equipped for high-risk birth, you may be transported by helicopter or ambulance to a hospital that specializes in high-risk births. IU Health LifeLine vehicles are fully equipped to care for both you and your baby if delivery happens en route.

Neonatal Intensive Care

If your baby is expected to require intensive support after birth, a special team from our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) will be present at your delivery. Several IU Health hospitals have a Level III NICU staffed by neonatologists (newborn specialists) from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health to provide care to critically ill babies.

Neonatologists and perinatologists (doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies) work together with pediatric cardiologists, surgeons, neurologists, urologists, nurses and many others who are experts in the care of infants and children. Our staff will help you prepare for your baby's special needs as you return home.

Prenatal Testing

Certain prenatal tests screen for genetic problems such as neural tube defects, ventral wall defects, Down syndrome, chromosomal problems and congenital heart problems. Diagnosing a birth defect in the womb allows you and your doctor to work together to plan your pregnancy care. If any problem is detected in your pregnancy, we offer a variety of individualized counseling and support services.

What to Expect

What Makes a Pregnancy High Risk?

A pregnancy can be considered high risk if there is a problem with the mother or baby or both. High risk situations involving the baby include genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome or problems with the lungs, heart or kidneys. Your pregnancy may also be considered high risk if you are younger than 17 or older than 35, or if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. 

Other problems that may cause your pregnancy to be high risk include:

• Alcohol, drug or cigarette use
• Gestational diabetes (high blood sugar)
• Infections, such as HIV, hepatitis C or rubella (German measles)
• Pregnancy of multiples (twins, triplets or more)
• Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
• Preterm labor (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
• Preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure and problems with kidneys and other organs)
• Problems with past pregnancies, such as preterm labor or preeclampsia
• Three or more previous miscarriages
• Using certain medications, such as lithium

High Risk Pregnancy Services

If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, IU Health offers services and support to help ensure a safe delivery for both you and your baby. 

Care for Multiples

Expecting more than one baby is exciting, but it also increases the risk for complications. If you are expecting multiples, your care will include more frequent prenatal visits to check on the health of you and your babies. This will help detect complications early enough for effective treatment or management.

Cesarean Section

In some cases, a cesarean section (C-section) is needed to deliver a high risk pregnancy safely. You may know in advance that this is necessary and your delivery can be scheduled. Other times, your physician may help you decide that you need a cesarean during your labor process.

Genetic Counseling

Our staff of physicians and genetic counselors provide individualized counseling to help you and your partner determine your chances of having a baby with a birth defect or genetic problem. It can also help to identify patterns of inherited problems, if any exist. The counselor will answer your questions and review your family and pregnancy history.

High-Resolution Ultrasound

High-resolution ultrasounds offer a very clear picture of your baby and help your doctor monitor the baby’s growth as well as the health or both you and the baby. Ultrasounds do not emit radiation and are safe for both you and your baby, with no known risks.

IU Health Lifeline

In the event of an unexpected complication at a location that is not equipped for high-risk birth, you may be transported by helicopter or ambulance to a hospital that specializes in high-risk births. IU Health LifeLine vehicles are fully equipped to care for both you and your baby if delivery happens en route.

Neonatal Intensive Care

If your baby is expected to require intensive support after birth, a special team from our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) will be present at your delivery. Several IU Health hospitals have a Level III NICU staffed by neonatologists (newborn specialists) from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health to provide care to critically ill babies.

Neonatologists and perinatologists (doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies) work together with pediatric cardiologists, surgeons, neurologists, urologists, nurses and many others who are experts in the care of infants and children. Our staff will help you prepare for your baby's special needs as you return home.

Prenatal Testing

Certain prenatal tests screen for genetic problems such as neural tube defects, ventral wall defects, Down syndrome, chromosomal problems and congenital heart problems. Diagnosing a birth defect in the womb allows you and your doctor to work together to plan your pregnancy care. If any problem is detected in your pregnancy, we offer a variety of individualized counseling and support services.

Support Programs

Special consideration and support is provided if you experience serious complications with your unborn baby, or experience a loss of a pregnancy through miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth. Caregivers offer personalized options for care prior to admission, throughout your hospital stay and after discharge.

After your Procedure

Support Programs

Special consideration and support is provided if you experience serious complications with your unborn baby, or experience a loss of a pregnancy through miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth. Caregivers offer personalized options for care prior to admission, throughout your hospital stay and after discharge.

Patient Stories for High-Risk Pregnancy

Sidelines National Support Network

This nonprofit organization provides international support for women and their families experiencing complicated pregnancies and premature births.

March of Dimes

This national organization seeks to help mothers have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.

Resources

Sidelines National Support Network

This nonprofit organization provides international support for women and their families experiencing complicated pregnancies and premature births.

March of Dimes

This national organization seeks to help mothers have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.