High risk pregnancy

UCHealth offers comprehensive and advanced services for high risk pregnancy and newborn care.

Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists (obstetricians who specialize in caring for high risk pregnancies) provide a full continuum of care, from prenatal diagnosis through delivery and follow-up care for mother and baby. We work in collaboration with the patient’s primary OB throughout pregnancy and delivery, as well as other expert specialists in fields such as cardiology, oncology and anesthesiology to care for high risk maternal medical conditions.

When a pregnancy is high risk due to complications with the baby, the maternal-fetal medicine expert works closely with the team of specialists who will take care of the baby before and after birth to provide the best care possible during the pregnancy and after delivery.

About high-risk pregnancy

What makes a pregnancy high risk?

A pregnancy is considered high risk when there are medical complications affecting either the mother or the baby during pregnancy or birth.

These complications can include, but are not limited to:

  • Being overweight or obese before becoming pregnant.
  • Conceiving while using an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Expectant mothers being under 17 or over 35 years of age.
  • Genetic problems found by prenatal testing and diagnosis.
  • Having certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, endometriosispolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), epilepsy, thyroid disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart conditions.
  • Having structural problems or conditions that affect your uterus or cervix, including uterine fibroids or a short cervix (cervical insufficiency).
  • Having twins or multiples.
  • Heart conditions affecting the mother or her baby.
  • Past problems with miscarriages.
  • Premature labor or birth, or past problems with them.

Our care partnerships

University of Colorado Hospital partners with Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine to offer integrated maternal and fetal care for families with a known or suspected fetal anomaly.

>> Learn more about the Colorado Fetal Care Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy management

Early and accurate diagnosis of the mother’s or baby’s medical condition is very important in managing a high risk pregnancy. Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists collaborate with UCHealth imaging specialists to offer state-of-the-art diagnostic services, including fetal MRI, fetal echocardiograms and ultrasounds, chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and antepartum fetal assessment.

If a high risk pregnancy is confirmed, your maternal-fetal medicine specialist will introduce you and your family to an interdisciplinary team of adult and pediatric specialists who will work with you to manage every aspect of your pregnancy, delivery and follow-up care for you and your baby.

Our prenatal services include:

  • High risk pregnancy consultation and management.
  • Diabetes and pregnancy management.
  • First-trimester screening and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) – a prenatal test that detects abnormalities such as Down syndrome and other genetic disorders.
  • Perinatal infection management.
  • Ultrasound evaluation and diagnosis.
  • Genetic testing and counseling.
  • Home health care services.
  • Emergency transport.
  • Inpatient medical/nursing care provided in a unit specially designed to meet the needs of patients with high risk pregnancies.
  • Nutrition counseling.
  • Sleeping accommodation assistance.
Expecting couple at ultrasound session

High risk labor and delivery

UCHealth offers special delivery units at several locations for mothers managing a high risk pregnancy. These units have direct access to Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU), which offer the highest level of care available in Colorado for sick or premature infants.

Well in advance of your delivery date, your maternal-fetal medicine specialist will discuss your birth plan with you, including where to have your baby.

Newborn baby having heart checked

Pediatric & maternal care after delivery

After delivery, you and your baby will have access to the Rocky Mountain region’s top medical specialists.

If your baby needs intensive care after birth, he or she may be transferred to the neonatology team and stay in one of our state-of-the-art NICUs.

Babies with cardiac defects will be cared for by pediatric cardiologists, cardiac intensivists and pediatric cardiology nurses in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Other ongoing support services we offer, include:

How you can help manage your high-risk pregnancy

Just because your pregnancy is deemed high-risk does not mean things will go wrong. However, you will have to take some extra steps to make sure that you and your baby stay safe.

Avoid certain activities. For pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, your doctor may advise bed rest, which means minimizing your activity and resting frequently. Your doctor may also suggest pelvic rest, which means avoiding inserting things (tampons, douches, toys) into your vagina. These measures are restrictive, but they are meant to prevent other serious complications like bleeding and placental abruption.

Avoid risky substances. Certain substances, like alcohol, tobacco products, and illicit drugs can lead to pregnancy complications or make them worse. Additionally, some prescription medications can cause problems during pregnancy, so talk to our doctor about your current medication list.

Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Your doctor may recommend different management strategies to manage your high-risk pregnancy. This may include changing your diet, work restrictions and monitoring your condition at home. These recommendations are meant to help you take charge of your pregnancy. If you have any questions or concerns about your doctor’s recommendations, you should talk with them about it or get a second opinion from another licensed medical practitioner.

Pregnant woman shopping for fresh greens

Get regular prenatal checkups. Getting regular prenatal care is an essential part of any healthy pregnancy, and it is even more important for a high-risk pregnancy. You will need to get more frequent checkups to make sure that you and your baby are healthy. This may involve doing more frequent ultrasounds, blood tests and urine samples. By getting regular checkups, you and your doctor can catch any problems early and make a plan of action.

Know when to get emergency medical attention. No matter how carefully you and your doctor monitor your pregnancy, things can sometimes go wrong. That’s why it’s important to know when to go to the hospital during your pregnancy. Always seek emergency medical attention if you experience:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Changes in your vision.
  • Dizziness, nausea, vomiting or fever.
  • Sudden swelling in your hands, feet or face.
  • Vaginal bleeding.

Talk to your doctor about prenatal testing. Your doctor may recommend additional prenatal testing, such as:

  • Fetal ultrasound, nonstress test and biophysical profile tests. These tests are all used to check that your baby is growing normally and is overall healthy.
  • Genetic testing, which can be done to see if your baby has any chromosome problems, birth defects, or problems with the brain and spinal cord.
  • Tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be passed on to your baby.

Before you get pregnant . . .

If you have certain medical conditions that could make your pregnancy high-risk, consider talking to your doctor before trying to get pregnant. They can help you better understand your risks and options.