Understanding High Risk Pregnancies

Medication for Pregnant WomanIt is scary to be told by your doctor that you have a high-risk pregnancy. Everyone would rather not have a high-risk pregnancy. But women who are information can mitigate their risks and the most likely outcome is a healthy baby.

When a woman's pregnancy is considered "high risk", it means that due to complications with either the mother or baby, additional care and precaution is needed to have a successful delivery. There are a wide variety of reasons as to why a pregnancy can be classified as high risk, ranging from medical needs to external environmental factors that affect the pregnancy. Some women may have prior health conditions that make them more likely to be classified with a high-risk pregnancy. Other women may become a high risk after developing complications during pregnancy despite being previously healthy.

Problems that develop with a high-risk pregnancy can be mild or severe depending on the underlying cause, but regardless of how it came to be, complications during pregnancy generally continue throughout the rest of a woman's gestational period and may even persist after delivery. Therefore, when a pregnancy is high risk it is vital that a woman and her doctor take extra care to monitor the development of the baby as well as the mother's safety and wellbeing.

Causes of a High-Risk Pregnancy

There are several maternal health conditions that can be combined with other factors to result in a high-risk pregnancy classification. This means that accurately and fully informing doctors of the mother's prior medical history and any prior pregnancy complications (particularly premature deliveries) can be critically important to getting a pregnancy treated as high risk. Complications in a prior pregnancy do not automatically mean that any subsequent pregnancies will be high risk, but making a plan with your doctor will ensure the best outcome for you and your baby.

Some common maternal health conditions that could cause a high-risk pregnancy include:

  • Blood disorders
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Mental illnesses
  • High blood pressure
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lupus
  • Age of the woman
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Diabetes

If you have any of these conditions, it is best to consult with your doctor to determine what can be implemented to mitigate any negative effects on you or your baby's health. Even if your pregnancy becomes high-risk, there are many medications and treatments available that can help protect your child.

Environmental Influences

A high-risk pregnancy is not always triggered by underlying medical conditions. There are different environmental factors that can cause a pregnancy to develop complications and become high risk. One of the most significant environmental factors is the mother's lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyles can have adverse effects on the development of your child, and certain activities should be restricted or limited while pregnant.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause a child to be born with a low birth weight. A child with a low birth rate is at an increased risk of developmental delays and disorders, as well as more susceptible to infections. Some children exposed to smoking in the womb develop childhood asthma, requiring additional care to facilitate breathing when they are born.

Consuming alcohol while pregnant is also generally warned against, due to complications that can occasionally be fatal to the baby. Excessive amounts of alcohol being supplied to the womb can cause the baby to be born with permanent developmental problems, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal alcohol syndrome is an incurable condition that includes a wide list of symptoms, including physical deformities and mental disabilities.

It is important to note that even if you have never experienced complications during pregnancy and have maintained a healthy lifestyle, some women will still develop problems. Sometimes there is no definite cause or reason for the problem and cannot be prevented with medical assistance.

Some of these unexplained conditions include:

Prenatal Care With High-Risk Pregnancies

When it comes to prenatal care with a high-risk pregnancy, there will be a much more in-depth approach to monitoring the baby compared to normal pregnancies. You should expect to have frequent prenatal visits that could last longer than an average appointment. For high-risk pregnancies that are facing severe complications, a specialist may be brought in to provide insight. A maternal-fetal medical doctor (MFM) is a trained specialist that specifically cares for women with high-risk pregnancies. An MFM can work together with your gynecologist to create treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.

High-Risk Pregnancy and Labor

Labor and delivery is always a potentially hazardous process in high-risk pregnancies. At a minimum, it means some alternative methods of delivery are simply not possible. Home births or any type of natural birthing centers will generally not be an option for mothers with a high-risk pregnancy because of the inherent dangers to mother and baby. Delivery in a hospital is really the only safe option, as there are proper tools and faculty to respond quickly to any problems that may arise.

In certain circumstances, a vaginal birth may be too risky and a C-section may be needed to safely deliver the baby. In addition, women who are having multiples are at a higher risk of going into early labor. There are many possible complications and outcomes with a high-risk pregnancy, so it is best to talk with your doctor about the best ways to physically and mentally prepare for labor.

Avoiding Possible Complications

With any pregnancy, regardless of risk factor, maintaining a close relationship with your prenatal doctor is essential to caring for your baby during their development. However, with high-risk pregnancies, there are some general tips that can help reduce the possibility of complications for both you and your child.

  • Consider going to a preconception appointment to screen for any reproductive health problems
  • Take the time to do some research about your condition
  • Keep a consistent schedule for prenatal appointments
  • Eat a healthy diet and stay active if possible
  • Establish a support system with your friends and family
  • Monitor your mental health and seek out help if needed
Maintaining Your Emotional Wellbeing

Receiving a diagnosis of a high-risk pregnancy can cause you to feel anxiety and fear about what's to come next. You may also feel overwhelmed with the type of additional care needed to prevent any complications. These feelings can cause you to feel stress during pregnancy, but your doctor will work with you to provide reassurance and help you manage your emotions.

Reaching out to friends and family can help you keep a positive mindset about your pregnancy. Your doctor will also have resources readily available to help you care for yourself. There are many support groups both in person and online where you can share your feelings and concerns with other women who have had similar experiences. Having an outlet for your emotions can help relieve stress and allow you to better enjoy your pregnancy.

When reading about your condition online, people often share horror stories about what they have experienced. Sometimes, too much information can drive you made. While it is important to be aware of the potential risks, remember that other people's experiences will not necessarily be yours. With proper care and treatment with your doctor and listening to instructions, most people with high-risk pregnancies will have a successful delivery.