A high-risk pregnancy means that either the mother or her baby has a complication that needs more attention during the pregnancy.  Under these circumstances it is likely that your obstetrical care should be overseen by a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist.  Common high-risk pregnancy complications include:

Maternal Issues

  • Health conditions in the mother such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease), kidney disease, history of an organ transplant  (including kidney, liver), heart disease and seizure disorders
  • Recurrent miscarriage or pregnancy loss
  • Complications with prior pregnancies
  • Problems with the uterus
  • Possibility of pre-term delivery

Fetal issues

  • Twins, triplets or other higher order multiples
  • Birth defects (genetic or anatomic)
  • In the current pregnancy
  • In prior pregnancies
  • In the family history of the mother or father
  • Problems with fetal growth
  • In this pregnancy
  • In prior pregnancies
  • Problems with the placenta
  • In this pregnancy
  • In prior pregnancies

The UC Davis Medical Center is home to the top-ranked hospital in the Sacramento region as well as the top-ranked Children’s Hospital as reported by the U.S. News and World Report. As part of Sacramento region’s only academic medical center, UC Davis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital specialists apply the most up-to-date medical information and treatments, and offer an unparalleled depth of expertise to manage both routine and complex patients.

UC Davis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital is the only state designated Children’s Hospital in the Northern California region, and houses a new state-of-the-art Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Nurseries are rated as level 1, 2 or 3; the level 3 designation means we can provide a complete range of medical and surgical services for all babies, including the smallest and sickest newborns.  The 49-bed NICU has a wide variety of staff on site, including neonatologists, neonatal nurses, and respiratory therapists who are available 24 hours a day to provide immediate access to care.  Specialized diagnostic and therapeutic equipment in the NICU includes:


  • High-frequency ventilation using oscillator and jet ventilators to treat infants with severe respiratory distress
  • Inhaled nitric oxide for pulmonary hypertension
  • Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or Extra-corporeal Life Support (ECLS) for severe respiratory failure, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the neonate, and congenital heart disease
  • Specialized feeding evaluations for infants with craniofacial or development issues
  • Whole body cooling (hypothermia) program for the treatment of neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (brain injury)


UC Davis Children's Hospital received the Excellence in Life Support Award from the international Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) for its Extracorporeal Life Support Program in 2012.  The Excellence in Life Support Award recognizes centers worldwide that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to evidence-based processes and quality measures, staff training and continuing education, patient satisfaction and ongoing clinical care.  UC Davis Children's Hospital is one of only a few hospitals to receive the award since its inception in 2006.

We also offer the Central Valley’s only Level I Pediatric and Adult Trauma center, the highest designation possible as verified by the American College of Surgeons.  Our Level 1 trauma center is equipped to provide comprehensive emergency medical services to patients.  What this means for you is a greater array of resources available to you for any situation that may arise during your pregnancy.

At the UC Davis Medical Center, we provide 24-hour consultation and management of pregnancy complications, overseeing the health of mother and baby from preconception through delivery.  Our Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to urgent high-risk patient needs, patient transfers and emergency referral services.  Many times, pregnant women require urgent care, but may not be in Sacramento when an emergency happens.  For these women, we can arrange hospital-to-hospital transport to UC Davis Medical Center, to receive care from our experts.

In addition to our subspecialty trained Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists and our level 3 NICU, UC Davis Medical Center is also home to some of the leading neonatal and pediatric surgery specialists in the region.

Dr. Diana Farmer, an internationally renowned fetal and neonatal surgeon, is Chair of the Department of Surgery.  She is known for her skilled surgical treatment of congenital anomalies and for her expertise in cancer, airway and intestinal surgeries in newborns.  Besides being an esteemed clinician and surgeon, Dr. Farmer has been at the forefront of improving outcomes for fetuses and babies affected by neural tube defects, also known as spina bifida.  She led a national study demonstrating the effectiveness and safety of spina bifida treatments before birth.  She is also focusing her efforts of the use of a novel stem cell therapy for repairing damaged neural tissue in patients with spina bifida.  In addition to her outstanding work within the fetal surgery domain, she received some of the highest honors in medicine.  In 2010, she was inducted as a fellow into the Royal College of Surgeons of England, becoming the second woman surgeon from the United States to receive this prestigious honor.  In 2011, she was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in medicine.

Dr. Gary Raff, Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, is one of the region’s most specialized neonatal and pediatric surgeons.  Dr. Raff is one of an elite corps of highly skilled pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons nationwide who are able to perform complex surgeries on some of the tiniest and most fragile patients who suffer from birth defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome and transposition of the great arteries.  The UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Heart Center offers an integrated team of specialists including doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, available to provide a comprehensive range of diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical procedures for infants with congenital as well as acquired heart defects.

Dr. Robin Steinhorn, Chair of Pediatrics, is an internationally recognized specialist in neonatal-perinatal medicine and an expert in the area of newborn lung disorders.  Dr. Steinhorn is especially well known for her expertise in fetal and newborn pulmonary vascular function.  Nearly 2% of all babies are not able to adapt to breathing after birth because of prematurity or other lung diseases, making neonatal respiratory failure a major national health concern and a frequent complication after a difficult pregnancy.  In addition, the Pediatrics department provides state-of-the-art clinical care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults, so that your baby can get the care he or she needs for as long as necessary.  As Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Steinhorn also serves as Physician-in-Chief for the UC Davis Children's Hospital, the only nationally ranked pediatric hospital in inland Northern California.

For these reasons and more, there may be no other place in the region where a mother and baby can be sure that if anything happens during pregnancy or delivery, the best care is available without needing to go anywhere else.  Maybe the question should be “Why would you deliver your baby anywhere but UC Davis?