High-Risk Pregnancy: What Does This Mean?

High-Risk Pregnancy: What Does This Mean?

A pregnancy is considered high-risk when either the mother or the baby have a higher chance of medical complications. High-risk pregnancies require closer monitoring and care, to make sure both the mom and baby stay healthy throughout the entire pregnancy.

Risk factors that would make doctor's label my pregnancy high-risk:

A Mother's Age: Age plays a major role in how doctors view the risks of your pregnancy. Generally, pregnancies for women over 40-years-old are labeled high-risk, due to the increased rate of miscarriages and genetic defects.

Preexisting Medical Conditions:  An expecting mother that has been previously diagnosed with health problems or diseases would be labeled high-risk. This could consist of heart disease, high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, STD's, or any previous issues in other pregnancies, including miscarriages. It is important to consult with your physician, prior to trying to conceive, to discuss any risks you may have, medications you are on, or blood tests that should be conducted in order to evaluate and mitigate complications.

Several complications include:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Chronic infections
  • HIV
  • Family history of genetic disorders
  • History of miscarriage
  • Cancer
  • Blood disorders

Medical conditions that arise during pregnancy:  In many cases, a pregnancy is labeled high-risk for issues not having to do with the mother's health or medical history, but rather complications that can be caused by the pregnancy itself.

  • Premature Labor: Although it is impossible to predict the exact time of birth, women with certain risk factors, such as a shortened cervix, or previous pre-term deliveries (before 37 weeks), will often be labeled as high-risk. This often calls for bed rest.
  • Carrying more than one child:  Multiples are more and more common these days due to IVF, and although it is exciting to be expecting twins, triplets, or quadruplets, carrying multiples greatly increases the risk of premature labor, and other pregnancy complications. Some complications include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Placenta previa: When the placenta grows, covering the opening to the cervix, a doctor would call this placenta previa. If the cervix is covered close to the due date of delivery, a c-section will be scheduled in order to reduce bleeding risks.
  • Fetal complications: This occurs in approximately 2% to 3% of all pregnancies. While most of these can be detected through ultrasounds, there is often no way of predicting these issues. Once detected, the baby will be monitored more closely to track his or her development.

Throughout your pregnancy, several tests are conducted to continually evaluate your risk:

With a high-risk pregnancy, you can expect to be more closely monitored and also be seen by different specialists, depending on your specific case.  Remember, most high-risk pregnancies result in complication free births, but it is important for your health and the health of your baby to surround yourself with a competent health team to manage your pregnancy from beginning until delivery.