High Risk Pregnancy: What Makes a Pregnancy High Risk

high risk pregnancy__1457980983_162.206.228.38You’ve probably heard the term “high risk pregnancy” but you may not know exactly what it means.  It sounds pretty scary, especially if you are getting the news yourself.  High risk pregnancy is a designation that doctors use to signify your pregnancy needs extra attention and care.  It helps you and your caregivers know to vigilant during your pregnancy, perhaps taking extra precautions, doing extra tests and monitoring you very closely throughout the 9 months.

The high risk pregnancy category includes several conditions that may be linked to your personal health or age, your lifestyle choices, your family history or conditions that arise during pregnancy.  High risk pregnancy can affect your health during pregnancy and afterwards, may cause a difficult labor and delivery, and may have repercussions for your baby as well.  However, knowing your pregnancy is high risk, getting proper treatment and prenatal care can lesson, and in some cases eliminate, health concerns.

What Makes a Pregnancy High Risk?

Pregnancies can be deemed high risk for the following reasons:

  • You are younger than 17 or 35 or older (advanced maternal age)
  • You are pregnant with multiples
  • You have an existing medical condition such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, an STD or a disease in any major organs
  • You have a history of preterm labor, 3 or more miscarriages, babies with birth defects or have had preeclampsia
  • You smoke, drink or have a substance abuse problem during pregnancy
  • You contract an infection during pregnancy
  • Your cervix, uterus or placenta is compromised during pregnancy, you have abnormal levels of amniotic fluid or if your Rh factor differs from your baby
  • Your baby is believed to have developmental problems during pregnancy or tests positive for genetic disorders

What Complications Can Occur with High Risk Pregnancy?

With proper care, high risk pregnancies most often end up with positive outcomes: a healthy mother and baby.  However, when factors are overlooked, severe consequences can occur.  A high risk pregnancy may cause preeclampsia, preterm labor and placental abnormalities.  This can put a great deal of strain on the mother’s body as well as the baby.  Mothers may have a complicated labor and delivery, which further taxes her organs and may lead to blood loss.  Babies can have birth defects including physical or cognitive impairments.

What can Women with High Risk Pregnancies Do to Remain Healthy?

Fortunately, doctors are very adept at caring for women with high risk pregnancies.  In fact, you will likely see your regular OB and a perinatologist during your pregnancy if you are deemed high risk.  Between the two, you will have regular blood tests, blood pressure checks, weigh-ins, ultrasounds and often other tests such as an amniocentesis, CVS and umbilical cord sampling.

If you have chronic health conditions and want to have a baby, consult your doctor before trying to conceive.  Your doctor can discuss risk factors and the best course of action for a healthy pregnancy.  Once you become pregnant, have regular prenatal visits with your OB and your perinatologist.  They can both help ensure you stay on a healthy track and identify problems as soon as they arise.

Your choices during pregnancy will also play a role in your health and that of your baby.  Following your doctor’s instructions regarding medication, vitamin supplements, diet and exercise are essential.  Eating healthy and gaining weight appropriately are especially crucial for a healthy pregnancy.  Also, do not drink alcohol, do drugs or smoke during pregnancy.

A high risk pregnancy simply means you’ll need to take precautions to ensure you and your baby remain healthy.  With the care of your team of doctors and following their recommendations, you will have the best chance of a wonderful outcome.