Pregnancy is typically a joyous time for you and your family. But that joy can quickly turn to anxiety if you’re diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy.
Were you recently diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy or know someone who was? You may have a lot of questions, such as:
- “Will I and my baby be okay?”
- “Will I need specialized care?”
- “How can I maintain a healthy pregnancy when diagnosed as high risk?”
If you have questions or you’re curious to learn more about high-risk pregnancies, it’s important to understand the facts in order to keep you and your baby healthy before, during, and after delivery.
What does high-risk pregnancy mean?
High-risk pregnancies occur when potential complications affecting the mother, baby, or both require additional care by a specialist to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
High-risk pregnancies can occur as a result of a pre-existing medical condition or issues that arise during pregnancy. Pregnancy symptoms, risks, and complications come in all shapes and sizes, but our pregnancy services can help you gain a better understanding, answer any questions you may have, and help you and your baby remain safe and healthy throughout your pregnancy.
Factors that increase risk in pregnant women
Whether your pregnancy has been diagnosed as high-risk or you merely want to learn about the risk factors and potential dangers, the experts at Metro OBGYN have answers.
There are quite a few factors that can increase a woman's chances for pregnancy complications. Some common risk factors are outlined below.
Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as well as diseases that affect the kidneys and thyroid, can all increase risk during pregnancy and delivery. If you have a pre-existing condition, speak with your provider about the best way to maintain a safe pregnancy.
Women carrying multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) are at higher risk for complications during pregnancy and delivery. These conditions can include preterm labor, preterm delivery, and preeclampsia.
Underweight or Overweight
Whether it’s too much or not enough, weight plays a significant role in increasing a woman’s chances for cesarean delivery, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, and preeclampsia. Talk to your provider about how to maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy.
Age can play a significant role in whether a woman experiences pregnancy complications. Women who are 35 and older are at a greater risk of developing gestational high blood pressure, prolonged labor, delivery complications, genetic disorders, and pregnancy loss. Pregnant teens also have a greater chance of developing conditions like preeclampsia, anemia, and gestational high blood pressure.
Your lifestyle choices can also play a big role in whether your pregnancy is deemed to be high risk. Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and illegal substances can put a pregnancy in jeopardy. If you’re pregnant and need support to quit smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs, your doctor can provide you with appropriate resources to help you quit.
While many different factors affect whether a woman will have a higher risk during pregnancy, it’s important to speak with your provider about your specific risk factors and how you can maintain a healthy pregnancy.
If you have questions about your pregnancy and various risk factors, talk to your provider. There are several tests and procedures available to help provide answers and ease any anxiety you may be experiencing.
Genetic carrier screening
Regardless of maternal age, it’s recommended for women to complete genetic testing before 20 weeks. Screening for genetic disorders helps to determine risk and whether a baby may have chromosomal or physical defects.
At one of your first appointments, your provider will ask you various questions about your and your partner’s family health history and ethnic background to determine your predisposition to various genetic disorders. Come prepared with this information to expedite the process. During the same appointment, you will also undergo various blood tests to determine risk of various genetic conditions.
There are two types of tests for specific chromosomal abnormalities: chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis. These tests provide a diagnosis, but they are also invasive and are generally only recommended if a previous, less-invasive test has indicated an increased risk for a specific condition or disorder. Speak with your provider about whether this is the best option for you.
High-risk pregnancies may require specialized care. Your exact treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis, but providers will monitor the growth of your baby closely throughout each trimester to help you maintain a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Reducing complications associated with high-risk pregnancy
High-risk pregnancies are not always preventable, but there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing complications.
Learn about family planning
If you’re planning on starting or growing your family, consider seeing your provider about preconception care. Preconception appointments help you familiarize yourself with when to begin prenatal care, regimens to follow, how much weight you should gain, and what your risks might be.
Receive regular prenatal care
Once you become pregnant, your provider will help monitor your health and the health of your baby through regular office visits. Depending on your situation, you may also work with specialists in maternal-fetal medicine, pediatrics, or genetics.
Maintain a healthy diet
Pregnant women need more folic acid, calcium, iron, and protein to help nourish the fetus. If you have gestational diabetes, you may need to adjust your diet to include less sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates. Speak with your provider about how to incorporate healthier foods into your daily routine.
Watch for added weight gain
While it’s normal for expectant mothers to gain weight during pregnancy, it important to gain the right amount to lower your chances of developing complications. Talk to your provider to learn more about the correct amount of weight gain for your body and ways you can manage your weight throughout pregnancy.
Ease anxious feelings
When dealing with a high-risk pregnancy, you may feel anxious. Anxiety can affect the health of you and your baby, but understanding how to remain calm and relaxed may help reduce your risk for complications. Listen to comforting music, watch your favorite shows, or practice meditation to alleviate stress and anxiety during pregnancy.
Lastly, be sure to discuss the signs and symptoms of pregnancy complications with your provider so you know when to seek medical attention.
Consult a Provider about Prenatal Concerns
While these nine months will have their ups and downs, it’s a beautiful time in your life and it’s best to remain positive to promote a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby!
Are you concerned about high-risk pregnancy? Consult with a provider about any questions or fears you might have so they can help you with your next steps.