What Factors Contribute to a High-Risk Pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy is a pregnancy that requires extra attention from physicians in order to ensure optimal health of the mother and the baby. Many things can contribute to a high-risk pregnancy. In order to ensure good health for you and your baby, it is important to understand the various challenges that can affect pregnancy. See below for a few risk factors to consider:

Advanced Maternal Age

Advanced maternal age is defined as a women who is 35 years or older when pregnant. Advanced maternal age contributes to an increased risk of trisomy disorders, such as trisomy 21 (or Down syndrome). For mothers of advanced maternal age, obstetricians may recommend prenatal testing to monitor for health complications or specific conditions, such as Down syndrome, in the child. Noninvasive prenatal testing is a blood test performed during the first trimester to screen for the risk that the child may have a trisomy disorder. If results from this test indicate a high risk for a trisomy disorder, further testing will be recommended. It is important to remember that prenatal testing is optional and not required.

Existing Chronic Conditions

An existing chronic condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, if not properly managed throughout the pregnancy, can cause serious health complications for the mother and for the developing fetus. For example, a pre-existing diagnosis of diabetes (or a diagnosis of diabetes before getting pregnant) that is not properly managed during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects to as high as 30 to 40 percent, compared to two percent when diabetes is well-managed.

The Development of a New Health Condition

Sometimes, women can start out with a normal pregnancy and develop a condition, such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure later on. If not monitored or properly managed, these conditions can lead to severe health complications for the mother and/or the child. For example, high blood pressure that is not managed can lead to a condition called preeclampsia, which decreases blood flow to the fetus and can even be fatal to the mother.

Certain Lifestyle Behaviors and Habits

Certain habits or lifestyle behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant, have been linked to multiple health complications for the fetus. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Previous Pregnancy History

During your first prenatal appointment with your obstetrician, you may be asked about any previous pregnancies. This is because any health complications for you or your child in a previous pregnancy can indicate an increased risk for complications in subsequent pregnancies.

How Can You Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy When It Is Considered High-Risk?

Women diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy should receive care from a team of experts in different specialties. A multidisciplinary approach, combined with regular appointments with an obstetrician, can help ensure careful monitoring of your health as well as the health of your baby, which may help prevent health complications from occurring.