It’s natural to worry when your pregnancy falls into the high-risk category. After all, your baby’s health has been your central focus since those two positive lines emerged on your pregnancy test.
But while the words “high risk” may sound ominous, they don’t mean you’re destined to have problems with your pregnancy. They simply mean that you and your baby require additional prenatal care or special monitoring to stay healthy and avoid complications.
Here at Glendale OBGYN in Glendale, Arizona, Diana Heard, MD, and our team aim to take the apprehension and uncertainty out of a high-risk diagnosis so your pregnancy can be as healthy, safe, and enjoyable as possible. Let’s explore what makes a pregnancy high risk and what kind of prenatal care you can expect.
A high-risk pregnancy means that you and your baby have a greater than average chance of developing complications while you’re expecting, during labor and delivery, or both. Some women have a high-risk pregnancy from conception, while others have normal pregnancies that become high-risk as they progress.
Age is one of the most common pre-existing factors for a high-risk pregnancy: Being older than 35 or younger than 17 increases your chances of experiencing complications like early labor or an unplanned cesarean birth.
Likewise, if you’re substantially overweight or underweight when you become pregnant, you carry a higher risk of complications that requires extra care and monitoring. The same is true if you have a pre-existing health condition like hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disorder, or lupus, even if the condition is well-managed and under control.
Having a history of multiple miscarriages, premature deliveries, or cesarean births can place any subsequent pregnancies in the high-risk category, as can carrying twins/multiples or having a family history of certain genetic disorders.
A normal, healthy pregnancy may become a high risk if certain conditions emerge along the way, as is often the case when women with no previous history of diabetes or hypertension develop gestational diabetes or preeclampsia during their pregnancies.
Contracting a serious and potentially dangerous infection like listeria, toxoplasmosis, or HIV while pregnant automatically shifts you into the high-risk category, as does developing any problems with your placenta that may require close monitoring or early delivery.
Your pregnancy can also become high-risk if your baby isn’t growing as expected (fetal growth restriction) or if prenatal tests reveal that your baby has a genetic concern or health issue.
Having regular prenatal checkups is an essential component of any healthy pregnancy. Still, it’s particularly vital if you or your baby carry a greater-than-average risk of developing problems or complications.
In a normal pregnancy, you see your
for routine checkups once a month through your first and second trimesters, every two weeks between weeks 28 and 36, and then once a week until you deliver. You also receive routine ultrasounds and health screenings (maternal and fetal) throughout your pregnancy.
In a high-risk pregnancy, you can expect your and your baby’s health to be put under a much bigger microscope. In addition to routine prenatal checkups and tests, your obstetrician will likely recommend additional office visits and frequent health screenings.
This extra care and monitoring are designed to detect potential problems as quickly as possible so treatment or intervention can begin before your health, or your baby’s health is threatened.
You may need more frequent blood work, urine tests, or blood pressure monitoring, depending on your unique situation. You may also need more frequent ultrasounds and fetal heart rate checks. If you have a chronic health condition, your prenatal care plan will include strategies to keep it under control.
A high-risk pregnancy doesn’t mean you’re less likely to have a healthy baby. It simply means you require more care and monitoring to protect your baby during pregnancy and birth.
Remember, even if a high-risk pregnancy requires a greater degree of commitment on your part, our team is here to support you every step of the way. Even better, you’ll feel good knowing you’re doing everything possible to keep your baby healthy.