High Risk Pregnancies

Ultrasound Scans During Pregnancy
October 10, 2018
November 6, 2018

Most of the time pregnancy is a natural process.  After a full-term pregnancy, woman goes into labor as the due date gets nearer and gives birth to a healthy baby if there are no pregnancy-related complications.  A day or two later, she is discharged from the hospital to begin a sort of second innings in her life as the mother of a newborn baby.  But not all pregnancies go as smooth as this.  Some women experience what doctors call as high-risk pregnancy.

A pregnancy is referred to as high risk when there are potential complications that affect the mother, baby or both.  High-risk pregnancies call for close medical supervision by a specialist to help ensure a smooth outcome for the mother and the baby.

Risk factors for high-risk pregnancy

Factors that make a pregnancy high-risk include:

Maternal age

Age of the mother-to-be is one of the common factors that makes a pregnancy high risk.  Compared to women in late teens and early 30s, women who will be under 17 or over the age of 35 when their baby is due are at risk of developing pregnancy-related complications.  The risk of abortion and genetic defects further increases after age 40.

Pre-existing medical conditions:

 Conditions such as high blood pressure, lung; kidney, or heart problems; diabetes; autoimmune disease; sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); or chronic infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can pose serious health hazards for the mother and/or her unborn baby.  Past history of miscarriage, problems with a pervious pregnancy or pregnancies, or a family history of genetic disorders are also factors that lead to high-risk pregnancy.  If you are suffering from a medical condition, it is important to consult your doctor before deciding to get pregnant.  Your doctor may do tests, tweak the medications that you are taking or advice you of measures that you need to take to optimize the health of you and your baby.

Medical conditions that occur during pregnancy:

You may be in the pink of health when you become pregnant, it is possible to develop or be diagnosed with medical issues during pregnancy that can have a bearing on you and your baby.  Two of the most common pregnancy-related complications are:


It is a syndrome that includes high blood pressure, urinary protein and swelling.  It is not only dangerous, but can be fatal as well for the mother and the baby if timely treatment is not provided.  With proper management of the condition, however, most women who develop preeclampsia have normal delivery and healthy baby.

Gestational diabetes: 

As the name indicates, it is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.  Women suffering from this condition can have healthy pregnancies and babies if adequate treatment plan is sought from the medical practitioner.  Usually gestational diabetes resolves after delivery.  However, women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pregnancy-related issues:

Complications that arise from the pregnancy make it high risk and that have little to do with the mother’s health.  These include:

Premature labor: 

Labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy is called premature labor.  Though there is no clear-cut ways to know which women would develop this condition, there are factors that make one prone to this, such as certain infections, a shortened cervix or previous preterm birth.

Multiple births:

  It happens when you are carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc.).  Multiple pregnancies, which are common in women undergoing fertility treatments, increase the risk of premature labor, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

Placenta previa: 

It is a condition in which placenta covers the cervix.  It may lead to bleeding, especially if a woman has contractions.  If the placenta still covers the cervix close to delivery, the doctor may go for a cesarean section to reduce the risk of bleeding to the mother and the baby.

Fetal problems: 

On an ultrasound sometimes fetal problems can be seen.  Roughly, 2% to 3% of all babies have a minor or major structural problem during the course of their development in mother’s womb.  Sometimes there may be a family history of fetal problems, but other times fetal problems may come out of the blue.

Preventing and treating pregnancy related complications:

You may be healthy, but still it is always advisable to fix up an appointment with your doctor to ensure you are as healthy as you can before you become pregnant.  At this appointment your doctor may prescribe certain steps that you can adopt to reduce the risk of developing complications during pregnancy.  These include:

  • Getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily beginning before and continuing through pregnancy
  • Getting proper immunizations
  • Eating a healthy diet and maintaining proper weight
  • Getting regular physical activity, unless advised otherwise by your doctor
  • Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs (except for medications approved by your doctor)
  • See your doctor regularly

If your pregnancy is considered high risk, your doctor may refer you to a perinatologist.  A perinatologist is an obstetrician with special training in high-risk pregnancy.  This specialist will work with your doctor, nurses and other health-care professionals to make sure the best possible outcome for the mother and the baby.

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