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
Round ligament pain or “lightning crotch” is a brief, sharp pain in the lower belly, pelvis, or groin area on one or both sides. It’s one of the most common complaints during pregnancy. However, this discomfort is considered a normal part of pregnancy as your body...
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a specific kind of advanced practice nurse that specializes in women’s healthcare services. CNMs are licensed, independent health care providers with prescriptive authority in all 50 states. CNMs focus on participating as partners in...
Pregnancy can be an exciting time, yet because miscarriage is common, it helps to be informed about the symptoms and risks, in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know experience. Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according...
When you have too much of prolactin in your blood, you can develop hyperprolactinemia. Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, an organ the size of a pencil eraser at the base of the brain. The hormone plays a crucial role in breast development during...
Whether you’re flying for a business trip or a babymoon, air travel while pregnant is considered safe for most women. And with a bit of prep, you can have a safe, comfortable flight without any additional stress. For women who have healthy pregnancies, most medical...
Are you concerned about pregnancy and obesity? If so, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, one in four of pregnant women in the U.S. are considered overweight (a BMI between 25 and 29.9), at the beginning of pregnancy. Another quarter (25%) are considered obese (a...
Midwives do more than deliver babies. The motto of the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) is “Today’s Midwife: With Women, for a Lifetime.” Nurse-midwives support women during pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum and afterward. Typically, they learn about the...
Why is Taking Folic Acid so Important? Everyone needs folic acid. It helps red blood cells form and grow as well as makes and repairs DNA. For prenatal care, taking folic acid is essential for the growth of the spinal cord in the womb. Because the spinal cord is one...
Let’s start with the good news: Infant mortality has reached an all-time low. While this is cause for celebration, a recent analysis by the CDC found that mothers in the United States have a higher rate of dying after giving birth than many other developed countries....
If you are curious about how a hospital-based midwife works, we recommend that you read a great article from the American College of Nurse-Midwives about how certified nurse-midwives care for patients. Following is an excerpt from the article: "When three midwives...