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High-Risk Pregnancy Care

Every family that’s expecting hopes for a healthy pregnancy and baby. But certain conditions can put you and your unborn baby at risk for complications (high-risk pregnancy). Virginia Mason Franciscan Health provides specialized high-risk pregnancy services that keep more expectant mothers and their babies safe. 

Our trusted experts deliver services, such as advanced prenatal testing, that aren’t widely available in the Puget Sound area. Our offerings include sophisticated procedures, support, and carefully coordinated labor and delivery services. Above all, we understand how stressful a high-risk pregnancy can be. We provide you with reassurance, compassionate care and the support you deserve.

Pregnancy complication risk factors

A variety of factors can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. They may be present before pregnancy or develop as it progresses.

High-risk pregnancies may be due to:

  • Carrying multiples (twins, triplets or more)
  • Existing health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and multiple sclerosis
  • Gestational diabetes in your current or previous pregnancy
  • Maternal age that’s young (teens) or advanced (35 or older) 
  • Preeclampsia, high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Preterm labor or birth
  • Previous pregnancy loss or stillborn baby
  • Suspected congenital issue, such as a heart anomaly, or genetic condition, like Down syndrome

Many women with high-risk pregnancies experience no significant medical issues and deliver healthy babies. Seeking care from a trusted program such as ours gives you and your baby the best chances for good outcomes.

High-risk pregnancy care at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health: Why choose us?

Obstetricians (OBs) and nurse midwives check for complication risk factors at every prenatal visit. This makes it easier to detect potential issues in earlier stages. If there is a concern, we may refer you to our maternal-fetal medicine specialists for additional assessments. We all work together to provide timely services and a seamless experience. 

Highlights of our program include: 

  • Expertise: Maternal-fetal specialists are OBs who completed advanced (fellowship) training in high-risk pregnancies. They perform various tests to diagnose issues and use research-based methods to address them. Meet our team.
  • Flexible delivery options: Being high-risk doesn’t always mean putting your delivery preferences aside. You may still be able to try for a natural birth in our Midwifery Birth Center. If pregnancy complications arise, we offer immediate access to OBs and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if necessary. Read more about labor and delivery.
  • Support: We offer a range of services that give you and your partner peace of mind. You have access to childbirth and family education resources that help you prepare for your little one’s arrival.

Suzy’s story: Mom safely delivers baby after experiencing preterm labor

With a history of preterm labor, Suzy knew she needed help when she experienced contractions early in her second pregnancy. Our high-risk pregnancy specialists slowed the contractions, giving the baby more time to develop. Suzy was delighted to deliver a healthy baby at 34 weeks in her preferred Virginia Mason Franciscan Health birthing center. Watch Suzy tell her story.

Advanced prenatal testing

We offer specialized tests to assess risk factors and diagnose certain conditions before your baby is born. This information helps our team and your family prepare for your baby’s future health needs. 

The decision of whether to undergo advanced prenatal testing is yours. Maternal-fetal specialists provide all the information you need to make the decision that’s right for your family.  

Advanced prenatal testing may include: 

  • Amniocentesis: Using a needle, we remove a sample of amniotic fluid, which cushions the baby in the womb. Evaluating the fluid in a lab helps us detect genetic issues, assess lung development and diagnose infections.
  • Chorionic villi sampling (CVS): This test takes cells from the placenta (organ surrounding the baby) to test for genetic issues. It is available at an earlier stage of pregnancy than amniocentesis.
  • Fetal echocardiogram (echo): We use a wand that emits sound waves to create images of your baby’s heart structures and evaluate function. This test may help us detect abnormal heart rhythms, holes in the heart and valve issues.
  • Percutaneous umbilical cord sampling (PUBS): If amniocentesis or CVS results are not conclusive, we may recommend PUBS. It uses a blood sample from the umbilical cord to detect genetic issues and certain blood conditions, like low platelet counts.

Specialized care for sick and premature babies

Many babies graduating from our high-risk pregnancy program are born in good health. But if there is a concern, additional specialists and services are quickly available. 

Offerings include:

  • Our Level III NICU delivers specialized around-the-clock care to babies born prematurely or with severe health concerns. Special care nurseries are for babies who need a little extra medical attention. Families are welcome to visit newborns in our NICUs as often as they wish. Get more information about our NICU and special care nurseries.

  • SeattleChildrensHospitalLogo

    Our collaboration with Seattle Children’s makes world-class neonatal care available close to home. Their neonatologists (doctors who treat premature and sick babies), physician assistants and neonatal nurse practitioners are available around the clock in Virginia Mason Franciscan Health nurseries. This arrangement helps critically ill babies receive advanced assessments and treatments without leaving our facility.

Contact us

Find out more about our pregnancy and childbirth services or make an appointment.