What Determines a High-Risk Pregnancy? Causes and Symptoms

It’s a situation every woman wants to avoid. You’re excited about those little lines finally appearing on the pregnancy test. You scheduled your first appointment, but then your OB/GYN breaks the news: you have a high-risk pregnancy. However, this news does not necessarily mean that anything bad will happen. Follow our high-risk pregnancy tips to ensure you understand your condition and avoid further risk.

What determines a high-risk pregnancy?

Before you panic, know that a high-risk pregnancy does not automatically mean that anything bad is going to happen to your baby. It simply means that because of a medical condition or other situation, you have a higher chance of pregnancy complications. Many high-risk pregnancies have no complications and end in happy and healthy moms and babies.

To help ensure your health and safety, your doctor has labeled you as a high-risk pregnancy so you can receive extra attention and care. By becoming aware of those risks, you better avoid them.

What are its causes?

Your physician will explain why you are a high-risk pregnancy and answer all your high-risk pregnancy questions. Many high-risk pregnancies are completely unavoidable; it has nothing to do with something you have done. Common unavoidable causes of high-risk pregnancies include:

  • Pregnant women under 17 or over 35 are considered high-risk pregnancies
  • Being pregnant with multiple babies
  • Having a history of complicated pregnancies, such as preterm labor, C-section, pregnancy loss or having a child with a birth defect
  • A family history of genetic conditions
  • Having a heart condition
  • Certain conditions such as epilepsy, kidney disease or polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Problems with the structure of the uterus, cervix or placenta
  • Rh sensitization

Still, a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your pregnancy risks, even if the cause is unavoidable. To have a healthier pregnancy:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, which includes not being underweight
  • Eat a nutritious well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise as per your doctor’s recommendations
  • Get rest when you can
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Avoid smoking, drinking or illegal drugs
  • Follow your recommended prenatal care

Identify your risks, complete this prenatal screening form here.

What should I do if I’m at risk?

If you are labeled as a high-risk pregnancy, you and your doctor will work together to create a prenatal care plan that helps keep you and your baby safe. This plan may include the following high-risk pregnancy tips:

  • Additional prenatal appointments, tests or ultrasounds
  • An appointment with a genetic counselor
  • An appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine physician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies
  • A healthy diet plan
  • A plan for safe exercise (or no exercise)
  • Smoking cessation help
  • In extreme cases, bed rest at home or in a hospital

Your doctor may also tell you to look out for certain symptoms, such as bleeding, pain or contractions. You should always call your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

High-risk pregnancies can feel like high-stress pregnancies. Though you might feel scared or anxious, try to find ways to reduce your stress and enjoy your pregnancy. You can try out prenatal yoga, meditation or other calming techniques.

Remember that your physician’s number one goal is to protect the health of you and your baby. Always follow his or her advice and never be afraid to ask a question.

Identify your risks, complete this prenatal screening form here or speak to a provider here:

What is a High-Risk Pregnancy? Facts You Should Know

A positive pregnancy test can be one of the most exciting moments of your life. Once you settle into the routine of caring for your newly pregnant body, you start to wonder about risks. Furthermore, you may wonder if your health history will make your pregnancy difficult. In obstetrics, a term exists that summarizes these types of pregnancies. Doctors call them a high-risk pregnancy.

Here is an overview of high-risk pregnancies to help you become informed and avoid unnecessary risks. If you’re concerned about your risk, discuss this with your doctor at your next prenatal appointment.

High-risk pregnancy definition

Most pregnancies are low-risk and progress normally. But sometimes maternal health becomes problematic during the pregnancy. Additionally, the health of the mother before she gets pregnant can cause severe problems if not managed correctly.

High-risk pregnancies often need special care or a high-risk pregnancy doctor. This is so the doctor can track the risks to ensure they aren’t impacting the fetus or the mother’s health.

Just because someone has this type of pregnancy doesn’t mean that things will “go wrong” or that they won’t be able to deliver their baby naturally. It merely means that they will need more care and regular health check-ins to make sure that everything is going well.

If something serious does develop during the pregnancy because of high-risk factors, a specialist team can quickly manage the issues. Additionally, they will work to ensure that the mother and baby are safe.

High-risk pre-pregnancy conditions and factors

If you have one of these conditions or engage in these lifestyle factors before you get pregnant, your pregnancy might qualify as “high-risk.”

Health Conditions:

  • High blood pressure – When adequately managed by a health professional, your pregnancy can continue normally. The greatest risk is when your high blood pressure is uncontrolled. It can lead to preeclampsia and low birth weight.
  • Diabetes – Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause congenital disabilities in early pregnancy. Manage diabetes before getting pregnant to avoid this issue. Also, have a doctor check on it throughout your pregnancy.
  • HIV positive – Transmission of the virus from mother to baby is a significant risk factor. There are ways to reduce the risk significantly. It’s essential to work with your doctor very early in the pregnancy to reduce risk as much as possible.
  • Obesity – Starting pregnancy while obese can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and difficult birth. Work with your doctor to determine the safest way to gain weight during your pregnancy.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – The most significant risk with PCOS is higher rates of miscarriage. Other risks include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature birth.
  • Autoimmune diseases – Since autoimmune disease symptoms vary, each case is individual and will need to be managed by your doctor. Some can cause more issues than others.

Lifestyle Factors:

  • Cigarette smoking – Smoking can cause preterm birth, congenital disabilities, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Alcohol use – Drinking alcohol while pregnant can increase your risk for miscarriage and stillbirth. The alcohol crosses the placental barrier and the fetus absorbs it through the umbilical cord. This can lead to birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  • Illegal drug use/prescription drug abuse  – These substances go into the fetus through the umbilical cord similar to alcohol. They can cause various problems, such as birth defects. It’s important to get help from a doctor if you have these issues and are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.

Age Factors:

  • A young mother (17 or younger) – Young mothers pose higher risks of high blood pressure, anemia, STD/STIs, and preterm birth. They also are less likely to get necessary prenatal care throughout pregnancy.
  • An older mother (first pregnancy at 35 or older) – Older mothers post higher risks for complications during birth, increased c-sections, long labors that don’t advance, and babies with genetic disorders (such as Down Syndrome).

What can the healthcare team do to help?

If you plan to get pregnant soon, visit your doctor for advice on lifestyle changes that will improve your overall health. Seek help to manage medications that might not be compatible with pregnancy. In addition, assess health conditions that might make pregnancy a challenge.

If you’re already pregnant, discuss your options with your doctor and get prenatal care as soon as possible. The earlier you can work on making your pregnancy as healthy as possible, the more likely it will be that you can lessen your chances of being high-risk.

To discuss how to make your pregnancy a safe and healthy experience, make an appointment today with your board-certified physician at Women’s Care, Florida.

High-Risk Pregnancy Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Once you’ve educated yourself on high-risk pregnancy and think you might fit that category, it’s time to discuss it with your obstetrician. At Women’s Care Florida, we help hundreds of women every year who deal with high-risk pregnancies. Our physicians can help women minimize risks and achieve a normal, healthy delivery. However, educating yourself is always important. So never be afraid to inquire more about your pregnancy and what to expect in the months ahead. Here are a few high-risk pregnancy questions you might ask at your next appointment:

1. Is my pregnancy considered high-risk?

You may feel overly concerned or have no concern at all. However, to eliminate uncertainty, you should find out. The number one question to ask your doctor about high-risk pregnancies is point-blank, “Is my pregnancy considered high-risk?” This way, you can better understand the kind of care you should receive.

Your doctor will perform a thorough health assessment that includes your health history and common issues among your family. He or she may order specific tests that will provide more information. If your doctor determines that your pregnancy fits into the high-risk category, your health team will work together to reduce these risks. Their goal is to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

2. What can I do to minimize my risks?

While there will be plenty of things that your healthcare team will do to help you minimize risks, you will also get instructions on how to care for yourself.

If you do not currently have a high-risk pregnancy, it’s important to understand that sometimes issues can develop during pregnancy that can make it higher risk. These issues include gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. It’s important to ask what you can do to care for yourself that will help to offset and prevent these issues as much as possible.

Take care to always check with your doctor before making serious lifestyle changes while pregnant. It’s best to improve your health and wellness under the watchful care of an expert.

3. How should I change my birth plan?

If you do have a high-risk pregnancy, you might need to change your expectations for how the birth will go.

In some situations, you will need to prioritize your health and the health of your baby over having a particular birth experience. You’ll need to focus on caring for yourself and staying flexible with what is required to maintain your health.

When asking your doctor high-risk pregnancy questions, also discuss what options you have with your healthcare team. In addition, work together to come up with a birth plan that will be the best for your physical and mental health and safety.

4. What options do I have?

In some high-risk cases, you have plenty of options. In others, you’ll have fewer options. You can always seek advice from specialists to ensure you understand the full scope of the situation.

Ask for available options and make the best choices that you can, depending on your situation. Choosing a healthcare provider that is the best fit for you can make a big difference in how you feel about your situation and pregnancy.

To work with a physician that has your best health in mind and can help you navigate the world of high-risk pregnancies, reach out to a Board Certified Physician at Women’s Care Florida for a consultation.