What is Considered a High Risk Pregnancy?
Anticipating the birth of your baby is an exciting time. And you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby is born healthy and that the delivery is as safe as possible for both of you. That’s why it’s important to understand what is a high risk pregnancy and what you can do to reduce these risks.
What Is Considered a High Risk Pregnancy?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high risk pregnancy occurs when you or your baby may have an “increased risk of health problems before, during or after delivery”. Because of these increased risks, special monitoring is often required for you and your baby while you’re pregnant and may continue for sometime after the delivery.
What Are Common Types of High Risk Pregnancy?
There are many different factors that can result in a high risk pregnancy. However, the most common reasons include:
1. Pre-existing health conditions
Certain pre-existing health conditions that you have before you become pregnant such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and HIV can put both you and your baby at higher risk of health problems. If you have any of these conditions, your health care provider can help you by making any recommendations they think are important for special monitoring and testing.
Being overweight or obese can also result in a high risk pregnancy. This is because certain health problems are more common in overweight or obese mothers including preeclampsia, neural tube defects, stillbirth, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and the need for a Caesarean section (C-section) delivery.
3. Age factors
If you’re a teenage mom or a mom over the age of 35, your pregnancy may be considered high risk due to the potential for preeclampsia and high blood pressure during your pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy and results in high blood pressure and sometimes protein in the urine during and after the pregnancy. It can also cause a disturbance in your blood clotting factors and problems with kidney and liver function.
4. Multiple births
Becoming pregnant with more than one baby is another factor causing a high risk pregnancy. Women who become pregnant with twins or more than two babies are at higher risk for premature labor, delivering their babies preterm, preeclampsia, and low birth weight babies.
What Can You Expect With a High Risk Pregnancy?
If your health care provider thinks you have what is considered a high risk pregnancy, they will likely recommend you undergo some special monitoring and tests such as:
- Specialized ultrasound (to identify any potential problems with the baby, to measure cervical length, and to check on the baby’s overall health)
- Genetic screening (usually requiring invasive tests)
- Prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening
- Lab tests
What Care Is Needed For High Risk Pregnancies?
As noted earlier, you and your baby may require special monitoring and tests during and after your pregnancy. Your primary health care provider or OB/GYN may also want you to schedule more regular appointments to monitor your blood pressure, blood glucose, and urine.
It’s also important that you quickly report any health issues or concerns to your health care provider such as abdominal pain, severe headaches, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, swelling of your face/hands/feet, and decreased movement of your baby.
What Are Some Ways to a Avoid High Risk Pregnancy?
The good news is you can help prevent a high risk pregnancy by seeing your health care provider and discussing pregnancy before you become pregnant, scheduling regular prenatal care when you’re pregnant, and avoiding smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs when you’re pregnant.
If you have what is considered a high risk pregnancy, there are certain health risks for both you and your baby. However, seeing your health care provider before you become pregnant and following their recommendations can help ensure you and your baby are as healthy and safe as possible through your pregnancy and delivery.