What is the treatment for a high-risk pregnancy?

According to UCLA maternal and fetal medicine specialist Daniel Kahn, MD, PhD, collaboration is essential for a high-risk pregnancy mother to carry to full term and begins as soon as there is any reason to suspect a problem in the mother or fetus. When the mother has a preexisting health condition—such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or an autoimmune disorder—coordination of care with an appropriate subspecialist is required. When a congenital malformation is detected while the fetus is still in the womb, careful monitoring is critical to the survival of the fetus.

It is essential for the doctor to get involved in the earlier stages of planning a high-risk delivery, according to Richard Hong, MD, chief of obstetric anesthesiology at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Anesthesia during delivery is generally well tolerated for most young, healthy women. Certain maternal diseases, however, increase the risk for complications and require additional monitoring. “It’s not cut-and-dry,” Dr. Hong says. “Sometimes we have to adjust our techniques after discussing the risks and benefits with the patient and the entire health team.”

An early assessment of the risks associated with the delivery may also impact when and where the mother delivers. “Once a high-risk pregnancy is identified, we begin receiving reports regarding the status of the mother and progression of the pregnancy,” explains Nancy Sanchez, director of Women’s and Children’s Services at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. High-risk mothers generally stay on strict bed rest until delivery at 32 to 36 weeks, says Ms. Sanchez. Mothers are given medications and other appropriate treatment to prevent or delay preterm birth.

"Communication is everything," says Ms. Sanchez. "It not only leads to better outcomes; it also helps to alleviate the fears of parents that may be feeling overwhelmed."

Care for a high-risk pregnancy includes a diagnostic process and monitoring both the mother and child throughout the pregnancy.

Some of the treatments that are helping doctors to detect problems in high-risk pregnancy include ultrasound technology, which diagnoses anatomic pregnancy disorders. This technology is improving dramatically. Non-invasive prenatal testing also detects fetal cells in the mother’s blood, assessing the risk for a genetic abnormality. All of this testing helps doctors better prepare for delivery of a baby who may have extra needs at the time of birth so that all appropriate specialists are available for delivery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.