Pregnancy is considered high-risk if there are specific challenges during or after delivery, and special monitoring is required for either mother or the child if the pregnancy is deemed high-risk. The mother or the baby may have increased risk of developing health issues and may need special care. All high-risk pregnancy cases need special medical attention during and after pregnancy, which will help to identify problems at an early stage. High-risk pregnancy does not mean that the mother or child will surely have problems after delivery; it only refers to the increased risk of developing health issues.
Pregnancy may be deemed high-risk because of several factors, including general health conditions, lifestyle, age and medical history of the mother.
Traits of a high-risk pregnancy include:
- Maternal age – Risk of pregnancy is higher if the mother is below 17-years-old or above 35-years-old.
- Maternal lifestyle – Habits like alcohol abuse, the use of illegal drugs, and smoking increases the risk associated with pregnancy.
- Medical history – The risk increases if the mother had pre-term delivery, a low birth weight baby, or a C-section in earlier pregnancies. Death of the child shortly after birth and miscarriages are also on the list of high-risk factors.
- Maternal Health condition – Health problems, including diabetes, cancer, hypertension, kidney problems, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart valve problems, are also deemed to be in the high-risk category. Infection by HIV, cytomegalovirus (CMV), chicken pox, rubella, and syphilis raises the risk of pregnancy.
- Complications in pregnancy – Issues that arise during pregnancy, like cervical and uterine problems, morning sickness that continues beyond the first trimester, excess or shortage of amniotic fluid, and restricted growth of the fetus requires special monitoring during pregnancy. Another serious condition that increases the risk is when the baby is Rh positive while maternal blood is Rh negative.
- Genetic condition of the fetus – If the fetus has conditions like Down syndrome, or problems with kidney, heart or lungs, pregnancy is deemed high-risk.
- Medications – If the mother is taking medications like phenytoin, lithium, valproic acid, or carbamazepine, special monitoring is required during and after pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies – If the mother is pregnant with more than one fetus, it is considered to be in the high-risk category.