High-Risk Pregnancy

Our obstetricians and other healthcare providers offer compassionate, skilled care to pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk of health problems. Prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies can include more doctor appointments, fetal heart rate monitoring, lab tests and diabetes education.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, the doctors and nurses at MaineHealth can provide the special care close to home that you and your baby need. They work with specialists in high-risk obstetrics to help coordinate care during a high-risk pregnancy.

In addition, Maine Medical Center and The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland offer a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that cares for the most critically ill newborns.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy can occur from a health condition before or during the pregnancy. A health problem during pregnancy can either happen to the mother or baby. A mother and her unborn child often need special monitoring during a high-risk pregnancy. The extra care is to protect the health of both the mother and the baby she carries.

What factors can cause a high-risk pregnancy?

The age of the woman and lifestyle choices can increase the chances of a high-risk pregnancy. There are special pre-existing factors that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy risks are higher for women age 35 and older.

  • Lifestyle choices that include smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and abusing drugs can cause health problems for the unborn child.

  • Women who’ve previously had a C-section, given birth prematurely or had a low birth weight baby can have a high-risk pregnancy.

  • Women with health conditions that include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer or epilepsy will need special monitoring during pregnancy.

Health conditions during pregnancy

Health conditions that can develop during pregnancy include the following.

  • Preeclampsia is a condition when the mother has high blood pressure, urinary protein and swelling during pregnancy. Preeclampsia can be dangerous for the mother and her baby.

  • Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy.

  • Preterm labor is early labor that is before 37 weeks.

  • Pregnancy complications can include problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta.

In addition, women carrying multiples can face special health concerns.

The highest level of care for newborns

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center is staffed with highly trained specialists and provides 24-hour coverage for newborns. The NICU is a Level III Unit, providing complete care for the most critically ill newborns

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