Pregnancies are designated high-risk if you or your baby have an elevated likelihood of experiencing health problems. These problems could be a variety of things and relate to pre-existing conditions, age, etc.
In most cases, a pregnancy will be designated high-risk if health problems seem likely before, during, and after delivery. In many cases, these types of pregnancies will necessitate special care or monitoring.
What Factors Influence High-Risk Pregnancies?
There are a number of reasons why a doctor might designate a pregnancy to be high-risk, including the following:
Pre-Existing Conditions – If the mother has a medical condition before pregnancy, they might be at an increased risk when they do become pregnant.
Age of the Mother – Women who are over the age of 35 are often considered to be at an increased risk of pregnancy-related issues.
Mother’s Lifestyle – Women who smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs are at elevated risk due to their choices.
Mother’s General Health – Women who suffer from issues like obesity, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, blood disorders, and a myriad of other conditions are also more likely to suffer issues during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Complications – Things can happen during the pregnancy that can put both the baby and mother at risk. These include things like an abnormal placenta position, low fetal growth, etc.
Twins, Triplets, Etc. – Multiple pregnancies can put both mother and the babies at risk for a variety of complications.
Mother’s History – If the mother has a history of pregnancy-related issues, she may be more at risk during her current pregnancy. Such issues include premature births, hypertension disorders, etc.
How Can I Increase My Chances of a Healthy Pregnancy?
Though there may not be much you can do for pre-existing conditions, there are other steps you can take to reduce the risk to your and your baby. These include:
Consult Before Conception – If you’re planning your pregnancy, you’ll want to talk to your health care provider before you and your partner start trying. They may recommend you make one or more changes to put you and your baby in a better position. Such suggestions could include losing weight, taking folic acid, or treating a potentially worrisome condition.
Keep Up Prenatal Care – Be sure to maintain your prenatal visits so that your doctor has proper access to you and your baby. If they see a potential problem during a visit, they can take the steps to correct it earlier rather than later.
Make Lifestyle Changes – Women who smoke, use alcohol, or use illicit drugs put both themselves and their babies at a high risk for complications. It’s recommended that you quit any substances that might harm the baby’s development. You’ll also want to consult with Dr. Leveno about any medications you take, whether they be prescription or over-the-counter.
Will I Need Special Tests or Evaluations?
Whether you have a high-risk pregnancy or not, every woman is different. Depending on your specific situation, Dr. Leveno might recommend any of the following:
Targeted Ultrasound – This is an imaging technique that utilizes high-frequency soundwaves to see the developing baby. Dr. Leveno can use this process to target specific areas and identify potential problems or malformations.
Lab Tests – It is common to test both urine and blood for infectious diseases that might interfere with pregnancy.
Prenatal Cell-Free DNA Screening – Also known as a cfDNA, this procedure extracts genetic material from both the mother and the fetus and is screened for potential chromosome issues.
Invasive Genetic Screening – Common types of IGS include amniocentesis and chorionic villus samplings, or CVS. In the former, amniotic fluid is withdrawn and used to identify potential abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord. In CVS, a sample of the placenta is extracted so that doctors can identify the presence of certain genetic conditions.
Specialized Ultrasound – An ultrasound might be scheduled to determine the mother’s cervical length, which can indicate they are at risk for premature birth.
Biophysical Profile – This is an ultrasound can use to check up on a developing baby.
Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?
All high-risk pregnancies are unique, and the same goes for the symptoms that indicate them. That said, if you experience any of the following conditions at any point in your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to contact our office.
Watery vaginal discharge
Sudden or severe swelling in the face, hands or fingers
Abdominal pain / cramping
Decreased fetal movement
Pain with urination
Thoughts of harming either yourself or your baby
Blurry vision / vision changes
Fever / chills
Though facing a high-risk pregnancy can be scary, it’s important to stay positive and work with your doctors and health care providers to ensure you’re doing everything you can protect yourself and your baby.