A high-risk pregnancy means that the mother or baby is at higher risk of having a health problem before, after, or during delivery. It is important to receive early maternal and prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies.

High-risk pregnancies may be caused by a prior medical condition, fetal complications or abnormalities, or critical care issues. Expert doctors called maternal-fetal medicine specialists can provide early diagnoses and treatments for high-risk pregnancies, including special monitoring and advanced prenatal care.

What is Considered a High-Risk Pregnancy?

What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

There are several risk factors and symptoms that characterize a high-risk pregnancy. Some risk factors, including maternal age, serious disease, and certain preexisting health conditions..

If the fetus has certain structural or genetic abnormalities, that can also pose a higher risk of complications during your pregnancy. Your previous history of pregnancies and complications, prenatal test results, and certain symptoms during pregnancy, such as bleeding, can also cause a pregnancy to be considered high risk.

High-Risk Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms


There are common signs and symptoms of a high-risk pregnancy that could indicate an underlying health condition or potential pregnancy complications, which may include:

  • Abdominal pain (ongoing) 
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased or no fetal movement 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting or lightheaded 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe headache
  • Swelling, redness, pain in limbs
  • Vaginal bleeding and discharge 

Call your doctor if you experience any of the above signs or symptoms, as you may require immediate care. 

High-Risk Pregnancy Risk Factors

Risk Factors

The leading causes of a high-risk pregnancy may be related to a preexisting medical condition, lifestyle factors, pregnancy-related health concerns, or your history of previous pregnancies. Early prenatal care and evaluation of any of these risk factors can help you have as healthy and safe a pregnancy as possible. 

Preexisting medical conditions may cause a high-risk pregnancy such as: 


Health conditions arising during pregnancy may cause a high-risk pregnancy include:

  • Pregnancy-related depression
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Irregularly shaped uterus
  • Placenta disorder
  • Preeclampsia 


Lifestyle choices may contribute to a high-risk pregnancy, including:  

  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Smoking


Your pregnancy history may cause a high-risk pregnancy, such as:

  • Certain genetic conditions and abnormalities
  • Depression
  • Previous premature labor or birth 
  • Poor growth/small fetal size
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia 
  • Pregnancies with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) 

Preventing High-Risk Pregnancy


Certain factors, such as chronic health conditions and genetic disorders that cause high-risk pregnancies, are not preventable. But others, such as having regular ob/gyn care and planning for a healthy pregnancy, can help prevent or reduce the likelihood of having a high-risk pregnancy. 

One of the best ways to have a healthy pregnancy is to discuss your health status with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, also known as a perinatologist.

Other steps to prevent a high-risk pregnancy include: 

  • Avoiding drug and alcohol use 
  • Checking your family and personal health history
  • Having safe sex 
  • Keeping a healthy body weight
  • Good nutrition and regular exercise 
  • Monitoring current health conditions
  • Planning pregnancies between the age of 18-35
  • Reviewing medications for safe use during pregnancy
  • Smoking cessation

NewYork-Presbyterian offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating high-risk pregnancies with specialty doctors, including perinatologists, neonatologists, ob/gyns, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and more, for your complete care.  

Get Care

Reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian for High-Risk Pregnancy Help

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our collaborative team of maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctors utilize advanced technology and innovative techniques to provide a full range of specialized pregnancy care. For a high-risk pregnancy, NewYork-Presbyterian offers a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for both mother and baby to receive the very best care.

Contact us to make an appointment with an MFM doctor or a perinatologist.