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High-Risk Pregnancy

Woman reads a book about high-risk pregnancy while laying on couch

Risk Factors of Pregnancy

Identifying the potential risks of a pregnancy is a very important part of preconception care. There are many factors that can place a woman in the high-risk category during their pregnancy, including genetic background, existing medical conditions, lifestyle choices and conditions that may develop with the pregnancy. If you have a complicated pregnancy, your doctor may refer you to the Beaumont High-Risk Pregnancy program.

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Pregnancy risk factors may include:

  • birth defects identified before birth
  • cancer during pregnancy
  • family history of genetic disease or having a previous baby with a birth defect
  • infertility medications or treatments, which are more likely to result in multiple births and, potentially, difficult pregnancies
  • medical conditions developed during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
  • anemia (low red blood cell count) in the mother
  • poor nutrition status in the mother
  • mother is underweight or overweight for her height
  • mother is younger than 18 years old or older than 35
  • being pregnant with multiples
  • mother has pre-existing medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
  • previous birth of a very large or very small baby
  • previous pregnancy loss
  • previous preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation)
  • mother has previously given birth more than four times

There are also many external risk factors, including alcohol, drugs, smoking, chemical exposure, high temperatures, radiation exposure and high altitudes, that can pose a serious threat to a developing fetus.


  • 6-8 percent of pregnant women develop high blood pressure (NIH)
  • 3-5 percent of pregnant women experience preeclampsia in the US (NIH)
  • 33 per thousand pregnancies are twin births (CDC)
  • 2-10 percent of pregnancies experience gestational diabetes (NIH)
  • 6-8 percent of all pregnancies experience high-risk complications (UCSF)


If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, and concerned about high-risk pregnancy, you’ve likely landed on this page because you’ve been searching for facts about high-risk pregnancies.

Our free downloadable eBook, “Understanding High Risk Pregnancies,” was designed to help women like you understand the risk factors, diagnoses, and treatments associated with high-risk pregnancies.

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Offered through the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, our high risk pregnancy program provides comprehensive care for high-risk patients, from routine pregnancy risk assessment and screening to treating and monitoring complicated pregnancies. Our goal is to answer questions, explain conditions, provide testing and help you and your baby from pre-conception consultations through successful delivery.

Our team of specialists includes genetic counselors, dietitians, social workers, nurse specialists and pediatric subspecialists, who will all help you have the healthiest pregnancy you can.

The High Risk Pregnancy program is also backed by the extensive resources of the hospital. Beaumont has a comprehensive neonatal intensive care unit and physicians representing 36 pediatric specialties to help you and your baby.


Conditions Treated

Beaumont’s high-risk pregnancy management includes treatment for:

  • pre-existing maternal conditions, including: anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, organ transplantation, heart or kidney disease, cancer, thyroid disease
  • advanced maternal age
  • multiple gestation
  • gestational diabetes
  • fetal anomalies
  • history of miscarriage or stillbirth
  • history of preterm birth
  • cervical insufficiency
  • history of giving birth to a baby with high or low birth weight
  • genetic disorders
  • use of infertility treatments
  • mother’s weight (underweight or overweight)

Services Offered

Ultrasound is used to monitor high-risk pregnancies, provide important information regarding prenatal diagnosis and often decrease a patient’s pregnancy related risk. Women who have history of a complicated pregnancy, a child with a birth defect or a family history of birth defects may also benefit from the specialized ultrasounds available through our High Risk Pregnancy program. Our goal is to provide each woman with the most accurate information possible regarding the growth and development of her unborn child.

We offer a full spectrum of genetic counseling, evaluation and treatment services including:

  • preconception counseling
  • management of multiple pregnancies
  • fetal screening: first trimester screening, transcervical and transabdominal chorionic villus sampling (CVS), amniocentesis, percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS)
  • ultrasound: anatomical fetal survey, fetal echocardiography (initial screening can be performed in the late first trimester), fetal growth assessment, cervical assessment and surveillance
  • antenatal surveillance: nonstress test, amniotic fluid index, biophysical profile, Doppler flow studies
  • intrauterine fetal transfusions (IUT)
  • fetal vesicocentesis (sampling of fetal urine from the bladder)
  • fetal thoracoamniotic shunt placement (for conditions such as fetal hydrothorax)
  • fetal vesicoamniotic shunt placement (for fetal bladder outlet obstruction)
  • placental biopsy
  • fetal MRI

Our maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists work closely with obstetricians, family practitioners and certified nurse midwives to provide patients the highest standard of care for a successful delivery.

Genetic Counseling

Reproductive and genetic counseling helps potential parents understand risk factors for having children who may have genetic or chromosomal conditions. At Beaumont, for example, potential parents will meet with a genetic counselor, who will go through the mother’s and father’s health histories and help them determine if they should pursue genetic testing.

Genetic testing may be recommended if:

  • a woman will be 35 or older at the time of delivery
  • they have a family history of a known disease or illness
  • they have a family history of a genetic condition
  • they have a history of miscarriages
  • the woman has previously delivered a baby who has genetic or chromosomal conditions