High-risk Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

No pregnant woman wants to hear the words “high risk.” Between morning sickness, prenatal nutrition, the baby’s growth and development, and labor and delivery, there’s already enough to worry about.

If your pregnancy has been labeled as high risk, it means you need extra care throughout your gestational journey. A high-risk pregnancy doctor will monitor you and your baby because of potential health problems or complications. The type and severity of problems or complications differ depending on the cause of your high-risk label.

Pregnancies are classified as high risk for several reasons. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), high-risk pregnancy factors can be divided into four categories:

• Existing health conditions
• Age
• Lifestyle factors
• Conditions of pregnancy

Anything from high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases to obesity can put a pregnancy at risk. Resulting complications vary, so it’s important to stay on top of your condition with your high-risk pregnancy doctor. Age also can impact the health of your pregnancy; teenagers and women older than 35 are considered high risk. NICHD says pregnant teens are more likely to develop high blood pressure, anemia and go into labor earlier. Women over the age of 35 are more likely to have a cesarean section, delivery complications, and a baby with a genetic disorder.

Lifestyle factors that impact pregnancy include alcohol, drug and cigarette use. These addictions/actions make a pregnancy high risk because they negatively impact the fetus. If a mother drinks or smokes while pregnant, they are much more likely to have a miscarriage, stillbirth or preterm birth – and the baby is at an increased risk for birth defects and health problems.

Other conditions that lead to high-risk pregnancies include problems with previous pregnancies, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Women pregnant with multiple babies are considered high risk. Baby Center says, “If you’re pregnant with twins or more, you’ll have extra care during your pregnancy because carrying more than one baby puts a strain on your body. Your babies can be at risk of complications, especially being born early.”

It is possible to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications by decreasing stress, increasing emotional support, and leading a healthy lifestyle, such as eating the right food and staying active. There are excellent high-risk pregnancy doctors and resources available to ensure you receive the best care. If your pregnancy has been labeled as high risk, you need to be monitored more closely. Mayo Clinic also says you may want to consider additional tests in addition to routine prenatal screenings – anything from amniocentesis to specialized ultrasounds. Your OB/GYN might partner with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor to help guide you through your pregnancy and prepare you for different labor and delivery outcomes.

“The birth you have may not be the birth you’d choose,” Baby Center explains. “If your pregnancy is high-risk, you won’t have the option of a home birth or attending a birth center. You’ll need to give birth in a hospital where you and your baby can be monitored closely and specialist care is available during the birth and afterward.”

If you’re considered high risk, it’s important to remember you still can have a healthy pregnancy and baby. As stated here, “Healthy moms grow healthy babies: That’s why it’s so important to talk to your provider to find out how best to keep you and your baby safe.” Valley Perinatal Services strives to deliver the best possible outcomes for high-risk pregnant women and their babies. As a team of industry-leading maternal-fetal medicine specialists, we know how to handle every high-risk situation.

Talk with your OB/GYN about co-managing your pregnancy with Valley Perinatal Services today. Contact us online or via phone at (480) 756-6000.