Skip to main content

Maternal-fetal medicine (high-risk pregnancy care)

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you most likely have some concerns about your and your baby’s health. Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists, or high-risk pregnancy doctors, specialize in managing potential risks and safely delivering your baby.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

If your doctor has called your pregnancy “high risk,” you may be wondering what this means for you and your growing family. A high-risk pregnancy occurs when you or your baby face challenges or have certain conditions that raise your risk for complications.

If your pregnancy has been considered high risk, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist — an OBGYN with additional training in managing high-risk pregnancies — will monitor you closely to make sure you and your baby stay healthy.

Risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy

Certain lifestyle choices and risk factors increase your chances of having a high-risk pregnancy. They include:

  • Age: One of the most common risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy is the mom-to-be’s age. Women under age 17 and over age 35 have a higher risk for having complications during pregnancy or delivery.
  • Lifestyle choices: Factors such as smoking, taking illegal or unprescribed drugs and drinking alcohol while pregnant can raise your risk for complications. Additionally, these lifestyle choices can increase your baby’s risk for developing a birth defect or disability.
  • Medical conditions before pregnancy: Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, lung, kidney or heart problems and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) increase your risk of complications. Having a history of miscarriage or issues with a previous pregnancy also increase your risk.
  • Medical conditions that develop during pregnancy: Conditions that develop during your pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, can leave you and your baby at a higher risk for complications.
  • Additional pregnancy-related issues: Certain issues that can arise from your pregnancy and classify your pregnancy as high risk include:
    • Premature labor
    • Carrying multiples (like twins or triplets)
    • Placenta previa
    • Fetal development issues

Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll experience complications with your pregnancy. However, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you and your baby will be at risk during pregnancy and birth. It’s important to make an appointment with your doctor to talk about a care plan.

Find a high-risk pregnancy doctor

Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists are here to support you throughout your high-risk pregnancy, delivery and beyond.

Managing your high-risk pregnancy

Our maternal-fetal medicine team is specially trained to manage your risks and keep your baby healthy.

To closely monitor your high-risk pregnancy, your specialist might recommend tests, procedures and additional support along with routine prenatal screening tests. These may include:

Amniocentesis

During this procedure, a thin needle is inserted into your abdomen and into the amniotic sac to remove fluid for testing. The fluid in the amniotic sac contains cells shed by your baby and can be evaluated to determine whether they may have a chromosomal condition.
Ultrasound

This test uses safe, high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your baby that can help your specialist detect any abnormalities in your baby’s development.
Fetal echocardiogram

Typically performed during the second trimester and like an ultrasound, this test allows your specialist to see the structure and function of your baby’s heart.
Genetic screening and counseling

Genetic screening involves a blood test and ultrasound that helps your specialist determine the probability that your baby will have a genetic disorder. Genetic counselors can help you understand and manage the results of your genetic screening. Learn more about genetic testing during pregnancy.
E-visits with your specialist

If traveling to a nearby clinic or hospital isn’t easy for you, you can meet with your specialist through a video conference.
Emotional care and support

Having a high-risk pregnancy can cause mental and emotional stress. That’s why we have a team ready to support you and your family. Learn more about pregnancy tools and resources.

High-risk pregnancy care at Geisinger

Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists are here to keep you and your baby healthy throughout your high-risk pregnancy, delivery and beyond. We offer:

  • The knowledge you need – Your high-risk pregnancy team is powered by maternal-fetal medicine doctors, neonatal intensive care specialists, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians, breastfeeding specialists and other support staff — all here to help you manage your pregnancy and treat potential complications that may arise. Their expertise has been honed by treating many moms-to-be with complex pregnancies. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your and your baby’s needs.
  • Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive high-risk pregnancy care for you and your little one. We also offer telemedicine video conferencing appointments (e-visits) for those who can’t access a clinic or hospital easily.
  • Newborn services – From skin-to-skin bonding and nutritional support to our network of NICUs and neonatal specialists when extra care is needed, we’re ready to provide the very best care the moment your baby arrives. Learn more about newborn services.
  • Specialized prenatal care center – Our Center for Prenatal Pediatrics provides care for moms and babies facing potential complications before and during delivery.
  • Comprehensive specialty care – Welcoming a new baby brings about many life changes — some exciting, some challenging. Whether you need mental health or emotional support, are struggling with addiction, need breastfeeding support or advanced newborn care, we’re here for you every step of the way.
  • State-of-the-art delivery rooms – The birthing suites at Geisinger hospitals are comfortable, extra-large and homey, designed so you can stay in one place and make yourself at home. Learn more.
  • Support groups and parenting classes – Families have access to a wealth of programs geared toward mothers and babies including pregnancy and childbirth classes, pregnancy support groups, behavioral health support and other resources and services.
  • Nationally accredited NICUs – If your newborn requires a higher level of care, they’ll be cared for in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Our NICUs are staffed 24/7 by neonatologists, neonatal advanced practitioners, neonatal nurses and respiratory therapists — all prepared with special training to provide the care and support your baby needs. See our NICU locations.