High-Risk Pregnancy: Risk Factors, Complications & Treatment

pregnant woman

The road to motherhood is often a rocky one. Even the pregnancy symptoms alone can feel unbearable at times, not to mention the worry that soon-to-be moms experience on a daily basis. While those worries are often just fearful, anxious thoughts and nothing more, for some moms, the worries are rather real. These worries arise as soon as the nurse or a doctor refers to their pregnancy as being high-risk.

While it is possible to have a high-risk pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby without any complications, it is vital to familiarize yourself with what such pregnancy means for you and your baby, and learn how to prevent it or manage it. Below, we will define the term, as well as list potential risk factors, complications, and treatment of a high-risk pregnancy.

What does it mean to have a high-risk pregnancy?

The matter of fact is, pregnancy in general is associated with a variety of risks. After all, you’re carrying and growing a whole new being, which only highlights the importance of ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

If yours is considered high-risk, you may require specialized care to help preserve your and/or your baby’s health. High-risk pregnancy can expose you and your fetus to a variety of health problems, and even threaten your lives. Both the expectant mother and the baby are particularly vulnerable during such pregnancies. Specialized care is vital in such instances as it helps reduce the risk of complications and ensure an optimal outcome.

What are some of the risk factors for high-risk pregnancy?

It is common knowledge that receiving regular prenatal care is vital for ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Your obstetrician monitors your pregnancy and keeps everything in check, while monthly check-ups give you the peace of mind you need during your 9-month-long journey. Now, being told that you have a high-risk pregnancy can feel quite concerning and overwhelming. However, it doesn’t always mean that you’ll have any health needs after you deliver your baby.

Still, there are certain health risks that can increase a pregnant woman’s chances of having a high-risk pregnancy. These include:

  •         Being of advanced age (over 35) or younger than 17
  •         Being overweight (BMI over 25) or underweight before becoming pregnant (BMI less than 18.5)
  •         Being short (under 5 feet)
  •         Having problems in a previous pregnancy (e.g. birth defects, preterm delivery, underweight baby, stillbirth)
  •         Having had multiple births
  •         Having pre-existing disorders before becoming pregnant (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure)

What are possible complications of a high-risk pregnancy?

Many high-risk pregnancies end in normal delivery and healthy babies. However, there are several possible complications that arise as a result of such pregnancies. Some of these complications are eclampsia, preeclampsia, and excessive bleeding. There may be a need for C-section, and there’s also a possibility of preterm delivery. The baby may have a low birth weight, and in some cases, birth defects and brain development problems. Sometimes, the mother or the baby will require admission to an intensive care unit. Finally, there’s a possibility of misscarriage and stillbirth.

It is also possible for pregnant women to have a normal delivery but develop health issues later on, including postpartum depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc. Even healthy babies that were born from a high-risk pregnancy can experience a variety of health problems and disorders as they grow older. These include breathing disorders, developmental and growth delays, hearing or vision problems, and neurological disorders.

What treatment options are available for women who have a high-risk pregnancy?

Close monitoring, along with regular prenatal care appointments, is of vital importance in case of a high-risk pregnancy. It can help doctors detect any abnormalities and diagnose such pregnancies. This, in turn, ensures that the expectant mother and her baby receive the specialized care they need.

Depending on the risk factors specific to your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend a closer and more frequent fetal evaluation along with more frequent ultrasounds. This care plan may also include monitoring your own blood pressure at home, as well as monitoring of medications that you use to manage your pre-existing health conditions. They may also refer you to a maternal fetal medicine specialist as well as other specialists to consult with and provide further, more effective high-risk pregnancy management and treatment.

Wrapping up

Carrying a baby does come with certain risks, and there are a variety of factors that play a role in determining how healthy a pregnancy is. Prevention is the best cure, so do your best to promote a healthy pregnancy by eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, managing stress, staying active, and getting prenatal care. In doing so, you’ll increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a safe delivery.