Pregnancy can be a difficult and emotional journey even under the best of circumstances. But for women with a ‘high-risk’ pregnancy, this is even truer. Feeling scared, anxious and unsure of what to expect are perfectly understandable emotions for anyone that has been told they have a high-risk pregnancy. But with some good prenatal care, a little extra research and a great healthcare team to guide you it can make a tough situation a little more manageable. Here is what you should know about high-risk pregnancies.
A pregnancy is considered high risk when either mother, baby or both have a higher risk of experiencing complications over the course of the pregnancy. A high-risk pregnancy can fall under one of two categories:
Women who are high-risk before they become pregnant. This includes:
- Women who suffer from pre-existing high-blood pressure
- Women age 35 or above
- Women with a long term medical condition like diabetes, lupus or sickle cell disease
- Women who are obese
- Women who have had three or more miscarriages
The second category is pregnancies that become high risk as they progress, such as:
- Gestational diabetes (diabetes that only develops while pregnant)
- Gestational high blood pressure (high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy)
- Twin pregnancies
This list is not exhaustive. Depending on a number of other factors including past medical history and past obstetric history, a doctor may term your pregnancy high risk because they feel that you require extra monitoring and support.
What does a high-risk pregnancy mean for you
A high-risk pregnancy means you’ll get some extra help. This might mean being co-managed by another specialist doctor alongside your usual OBGYN. In addition, it might include:
- More ultrasound tests to make sure that your baby is growing well
- More blood pressure tests and urine tests
- Tests for genetic problems or other birth abnormalities (these tests are only done with your expressed consent and permission)
Furthermore, a high-risk pregnancy also means there is a greater chance of having a C-section delivery. While this might not be your original wish, sometimes it is the safest course to take for both you and the baby. C-section deliveries can be carried out in a more controlled, relaxed environment where all the planning is done beforehand. Your doctor will discuss options with you early on in the pregnancy if they think you might need a C-section.
What you can do to help your pregnancy
Be proactive. Apart from making sure you attend all prenatal appointments and screening tests, having a high-risk pregnancy makes it more important for you to stick to the principles of a healthy pregnancy. That means:
- Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of protein, fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Talk to your doctor about any extra changes you may need to make to your diet.
- Be sure to take your prenatal vitamins like folic acid and other minerals and nutrients like iron and magnesium. Women with diabetes may need to take higher doses of folic acid
- Stop smoking and all alcohol consumption
- Getting regular physical activity, unless advised otherwise by your doctor
- Asking your health care provider to discuss specific signs or symptoms to look out for, such as vaginal bleeding, severe headaches or decreased fetal movements.
If you’re in the process of trying to conceive and fall in the pre-pregnancy high-risk group then be sure to schedule a pre-conception appointment as soon as possible.
Remember, the single most important factor that will ensure you and your baby have the best outcome is early and regular prenatal care. Many women with high-risk pregnancies go on to successfully have happy, healthy pregnancies with no problems. Just be sure to follow the advice of your healthcare team and the few tips above.