High-Risk Pregnancy

Integrated Clinical Care for Women Facing High-Risk Pregnancies

Loyola Medicine offers comprehensive, integrated care for women who may be facing a high-risk pregnancy. If you are worried that you may be at high risk or your obstetrician has suggested that you seek the care of a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Loyola’s expert team will provide expert care and bring you peace of mind. Our widely acclaimed team will quickly let you know whether your pregnancy faces any challenges and develop an individualized medical action plan for treatment if necessary.

Why Choose Loyola for High-Risk Pregnancy?

Loyola provides truly integrated clinical care for high-risk pregnancies, bringing together specialists in obstetrics and gynecology, genetic counselors and maternal-fetal medicine to provide women with advanced care in a compassionate environment. As part of an academic medical center, Loyola’s expert clinicians perform and teach the latest surgical techniques and medical treatments in numerous locations across the Chicago area. In addition, our nurses have earned Magnet status, which means they have been recognized for delivering the highest level of care.

Loyola’s state-designated Level III Perinatal Center has a proven track record of improving survival rates of high-risk babies born to mothers who have conditions that require advanced medical or surgical care. Our skilled clinicians provide coordinated high-risk obstetric and neonatal services for some of the most challenging cases in Illinois, serving nine regional hospitals with a combined total of 9,500 babies delivered each year. We provide individualized consultations in both inpatient and outpatient settings and are available to arrange transportation for high-risk babies to Loyola on a 24/7 basis. Our board-certified specialists are on-call around the clock, seven days a week.

High-Risk Pregnancy Conditions Treated at Loyola

Loyola’s obstetrics, clinical genetics and maternal-fetal medicine teams are highly experienced in detecting problems that may lead to a high-risk pregnancy and caring for mothers who will face extra challenges. Your care team may include surgeons, sonographers, genetic counselors, pediatric subspecialists, perinatologists, neonatologists and advanced practice nurses who will help you during this very special time. 

Our expert clinicians have experience caring for patients with:

  • Low or excessive amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios/polyhydramnios)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple gestation (twins, triplets or quadruplets, for example)
  • Obesity
  • Placenta previa
  • Platelet alloimmunization (Rh complications)
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Previous obstetric problems (preterm labor or delivery, preterm cervical dilation, premature rupture, miscarriage)
  • Severe anemia
  • Thyroid condition and other endocrine disorders

How are High-Risk Pregnancy Conditions Diagnosed?

Loyola’s expert team is highly experienced in diagnosing and caring for a wide variety of conditions occurring during pregnancy. Our genetic counselors and doctors are skilled at explaining complex science in easy-to-understand language. Common reasons for women to be referred for specialized prenatal testing include:

  • Abnormal blood or ultrasound genetic screening tests
  • Abnormal diagnostic genetic test
  • Advanced maternal age (35 or older at due date)
  • Consanguinity
  • Family history (or previous child) with mental retardation, birth defect or genetic disorder
  • History of three or more miscarriages, one stillbirth or neonatal death
  • Teratogen exposure (fetal exposure to alcohol, smoking, medications, street drugs, chemicals, infections and maternal medical conditions)

Loyola’s licensed counselors will take detailed personal and family histories for both partners and talk about the role genetics plays in conception and certain diseases. Your healthcare team will order tests to determine if there are any genetic problems. Our compassionate counselors have much experience in helping couples process the results; they will answer all of your questions and provide useful resources. 

We offer comprehensive testing, including:

  • Advanced obstetric ultrasound — Using high-frequency sound waves, your Loyola technologist can produce moving images to monitor the health and development of your baby during pregnancy. This test is painless, non-invasive, uses no radiation and can be used to detect conditions that could affect the baby’s development and delivery. Learn more about ultrasounds
     
  • Alpha fetoprotein (AFP) blood test — AFP screening is offered to all pregnant women and is most accurate between 16 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. This non-invasive blood test may signal the need for further testing to determine if the baby is at risk for abnormalities or defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly, Down syndrome or Edwards syndrome.
     
  • Amniocentesis — During this procedure, amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus and tested for signs of genetic disorders or abnormalities. Amniocentesis is usually performed at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. This test is invasive and carries a small risk of miscarriage. 
     
  • Blood tests — Your doctor may use blood testing to assess your baby’s risk for birth defects such as Down syndrome. This test is most informative at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. 
     
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) — For women with a family history of genetic conditions or if the mother is older than 35, CVS may be recommended to assess the baby’s risk for a genetic condition such as Down syndrome. This test carries a small risk of miscarriage. 
     
  • Cordocentesis or umbilical cord sampling — During this test, a sample of the baby’s blood is removed from the umbilical cord and tested for blood conditions and infections. This test is invasive and carries a risk of miscarriage. 
     
  • Genetic counseling — For parents-to-be with a baby at risk of a birth defect or an inherited disease, Loyola offers counseling and genetic testing to provide information and support. Learn more about genetic counseling.
     
  • Nonstress test (NST) — This test is non-invasive and used to measure changes in your baby’s heart rate and overall well-being. This test may be recommended if your baby is not moving as frequently as usual, if you are overdue, or if there is any reason to suspect that the baby is in distress. This test can signal that there may be placental or umbilical cord problems. 

Specialized Programs for Pre- and Postnatal Care

Loyola’s maternal-fetal medicine and clinical genetics programs offer diagnosis and treatment in outstanding, conveniently located facilities. We provide education and support to our high-risk patients, including the following specialized services to provide you with the most comprehensive care:

  • Chaplain services for obstetric health — Loyola’s obstetric health chaplains minister to women who are here for routine and high-risk pregnancies. Our chaplains often see patients who are adjusting to unanticipated pregnancy or delivery issues. They have vast experience in providing emotional support to mothers and families who are dealing with anxiety, loss of control, stress and changes in routine. Learn more about our chaplain services.
     
  • Lactation services — Loyola has experienced lactation consultants to help guide new mothers learning how to breastfeed their babies. Loyola is the only academic medical center in Chicago to be named a Baby-Friendly Hospital, meaning that our medical center has been recognized for providing optimal care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding. Learn more about lactation services.
     
  • Neonatal follow-up program — Our specialists will evaluate infants at risk of developmental delays after they leave the hospital. A neonatologist will attend to babies until they reach 18 months, after which they are seen by a child development specialist. We also provide additional care for infants sent home on monitors and oxygen, as well as those receiving caffeine therapy for apnea of prematurity (AOP).
     
  • Neonatal integrated home care program — Our experts will train and support your family in the care of preterm infants and babies born with certain conditions. NICU nurses trained in home care will provide high-tech infusion services, physical and occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, medical social services and instruction in transitioning a preterm infant to oral feeding. Learn more about pediatric home care.
     
  • Neonatal intensive care unit — Loyola has one of the state’s highest survival rates for low-birth-weight infants. Our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) cares for more than 400 critically ill newborns each year. Loyola’s doctors have successfully delivered more than 3,000 babies who weighed less than two pounds, including the world’s smallest and second-smallest surviving babies. In addition, Loyola’s NICU serves as a national model for care with a survival rate that is among the best in the country. Learn more about our NICU.
     
  • Perinatal Center — Our state-designated Level III Perinatal Center has a proven track record of improving survival rates of high-risk babies born to mothers who have conditions that require advanced medical or surgical care. Our skilled clinicians provide coordinated high-risk obstetrical and neonatal services for some of the most challenging cases in Illinois. We provide individualized consultations in both inpatient and outpatient settings and are available to arrange transportation for high-risk babies to Loyola on a 24/7 basis. Our board-certified specialists are on-call around the clock, seven days a week. Learn more about our Perinatal Center.
     
  • Postpartum support — About 16 percent of women in the United States suffer from postpartum depression after the birth of a child. Detecting childbirth-related depression in the early stages can help women seek the care they need to protect themselves and their infants—yet these conditions often go untreated. Loyola’s mental health clinicians provide support for women throughout pregnancy and after childbirth; ask your doctor for a referral if you need extra support. Learn more about postpartum support.

Advanced Research to Improve Treatment of High-Risk Pregnancy

Loyola’s obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine specialists are at the leading edge of new technology and conduct research to develop innovative approaches to patient care. Current research topics include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Breastfeeding 
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Intrauterine growth restriction
  • Multifetal pregnancies
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Preterm labor
  • Tocolytic therapies

As an academic medical center, Loyola is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new diagnostics and treatments. Loyola’s patients benefit from research discoveries made here; read about Loyola’s current clinical trials.