As a high-risk pregnancy can pose challenges before, during, or after delivery, you and your baby will need special monitoring or care throughout your pregnancy.
The words “high-risk” covers several situations. Sometimes a high-risk pregnancy is the result of a medical condition that occurred in the past or is still present before pregnancy. In other situations, a medical condition that develops during pregnancy for either mom or baby causes a pregnancy to become high risk.
Specific factors that might contribute to a high-risk pregnancy include:
- Age: Pregnancy risks are higher for mothers age 35 and older.
- Habits: Smoking, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs can put a pregnancy at risk.
- Chronic conditions: Underlying illnesses, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can increase pregnancy risks as well as anemia, an infection, or an underlying mental health condition.
- Medical history: If you’ve had a prior C-section, a baby born with low birth weight, or a birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, your subsequent pregnancies may be considered high-risk. Other factors include a family history of genetic conditions, miscarriages, or the death of a baby shortly after birth.
- Multiple pregnancy: Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher order multiples.
- Pregnancy complications: Problems that develop during pregnancy may create risks. Your physician may discuss other concerns such as too much or too little amniotic fluid or Rh sensitization, which occurs when your blood group is Rh negative and your baby’s is Rh positive.
Ways to Prevent a High-Risk Pregnancy
Whether you know ahead of time that you’ll have a high-risk pregnancy or you simply want to prevent a high-risk pregnancy, you can follow some simple steps to decrease risk for you and your child.
Schedule a preconception appointment. If you have a medical condition, your treatment might need to be adjusted to prepare for pregnancy. Your doctor might recommend to start taking a daily prenatal vitamin and reach a healthy weight before you become pregnant.
Seek consistent prenatal care. Regular prenatal visits can help your doctor monitor your and your baby’s health and decide whether or not to refer you to a specialist.
Avoid risky substances, such as tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. Get your doctor’s consent before you start taking any medications or supplements.
In addition to routine prenatal screening tests, your health care provider might recommend a few other tests or procedures.
Specialized or targeted ultrasound. This type of fetal ultrasound targets a suspected problem, such as abnormal development.
Cervical length measurement. Your doctor may measure the length of your cervix using an ultrasound to find out whether you may be at risk for preterm labor.
Lab tests. Your health care provider might check for fetal fibronectin — a substance that acts like a glue between the fetal sac and the lining of the uterus – by swabbing your vaginal secretions. The presence of fetal fibronectin might be a sign of preterm labor.
Amniocentesis. During this procedure, a sample of the fluid that surrounds and protects a baby during pregnancy (amniotic fluid) is withdrawn from the uterus. Typically done after week 15 of pregnancy, amniocentesis can identify certain genetic conditions, as well as neural tube defects.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). During this procedure, a sample of cells is removed from the placenta. Typically done between weeks 10 and 12 of pregnancy, CVS can identify certain genetic conditions.
Cordocentesis. This test, usually done after week 18, is also known as percutaneous umbilical blood sampling. The test can identify blood disorders, infections, and chromosomal conditions by a fetal blood sample from the umbilical cord.
Biophysical profile. This prenatal test is used to check on a baby’s well-being. The test combines fetal heart rate monitoring and fetal ultrasound.
Ultimately, the decision to pursue prenatal testing is up to you and your partner as some prenatal diagnostic tests carry risks themselves. Discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider.
Consult your health care provider about how to manage any medical conditions you might have during your pregnancy and how your health might affect labor and delivery. Ask your health care provider to discuss specific signs or symptoms to look out for, such as:
Bleeding from your vagina
Pain or burning with urination
Changes in vision, including blurred vision
Cramping in the lower abdomen
Regular or frequent contractions that feel like a tightening sensation in the abdomen
Decreased fetal activity
Related Blog Posts
While healthcare providers try to screen and treat as many women as they can, 5,000 babies develop Rh disease in the U.S. every year. What do you need to know? The majority of women are Rh (Rhesus) positive—85% of Caucasian women, 90% of African-American women, and...read more
Protein diets seem to be all the craze these days: The Paleo Diet. Atkins. The Zone. Keto. Protein powder. Even if you’re not on a special diet, we as a nation are obsessed with protein (seen any burger commercials lately?). Still, vegetarians and pregnant women need...read more
You love your asanas, but what can you safely do while you’re pregnant? Yoga helps you relax and focuses your breath, which can help you healthily cope with the demands of pregnancy, labor, birth and motherhood. Continuing your yoga practice is definitely possible...read more
Women with asthma may have a lower pregnancy rate, and may take longer to get pregnant than those without the lung disease, suggests a new study. The researchers followed 245 women (96 with asthma) who were undergoing fertility treatment for unresolved fertility...read more
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that affects about 5% of pregnant women, or more than 200,000 cases per year in the U.S. When untreated, preeclampsia can lead to life-threatening complications for both you and your baby. The only cure is delivery of your...read more
You’re pregnant! Congratulations! You already know that you are going to visit your doctor with increasing regularity over the next several months. Early monitoring and on-going care during pregnancy is linked with more favorable birth outcomes. You’ll meet with your...read more
Think about the foods you have in your kitchen right now. Could you make a healthy meal with them? What about a whole day's worth of nutritious meals and snacks? When you’re eating for two, it can be even more challenging with so much conflicting information. Is meat...read more
Are you considering having another child? Your heart and mind might be ready for another little one, but is your body ready? Before you conceive again, get the facts about pregnancy spacing. Approximately 33% of American mothers have children spaced too close...read more
Move baby, move. Contrary to some prevalent myths, pregnancy is the ideal time to start exercising. Whether or not you tend to count fridge-opening as bicep curls, experts agree that the real hazard is inactivity. Even for formerly sedentary women, walking is safe to...read more
You know that you’re going to try to catch sleep when you can with a newborn, but you might be surprised how much you struggle to sleep during pregnancy. You are not alone. Read on to learn some tips that will help you find restful sleep in all three trimesters. Quit...read more