Every expectant mother's greatest hope is to experience an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. But, if you are one of the millions of women who learn they have a high-risk pregnancy, the next months may feel a bit more complicated, and frankly, a bit scarier. The good news is that just because your pregnancy is considered high risk, it does not mean you are destined to develop complications. In fact, most high-risk pregnancies go on to have problem-free pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies. Read on to learn about what to expect during a high-risk pregnancy and better prepare for welcoming your newborn child.
What is a High Risk Pregnancy?
If your pregnancy is called high risk, it means you and/or your baby have an increased chance of developing health problems during pregnancy or birth. While the term “high-risk pregnancy” may sound frightening, rest assured, it’s a way for your doctor to ensure you are getting the special attention you need for a safe and healthy pregnancy.
High Risk Pregnancy Factors
To be classified as a high-risk pregnancy, a pregnant woman will have one or more risk factors that could put the mother and/or baby at risk for health issues. Though your primary care physician may have his/her own list of what defines a pregnancy risk, in general, a pregnancy may be considered high risk if you:
- Are older than 35 years old
- Are younger than 17 years old
- Are underweight or overweight prior to becoming pregnant
- Are pregnant with more than one baby
- Go into premature labor (labor that starts before week 37)
- Have had a premature baby or history of three or more miscarriages
- Have or have had a baby with a birth defect, particularly heart or genetic problems
- Have gestational diabetes
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lupus, asthma, epilepsy or another chronic medical issue
Prenatal Care for High-Risk Pregnancy
Scheduling regular prenatal examination is an important component of any healthy pregnancy, and it’s especially important if you are at high risk for complications. If you are considered a high-risk pregnancy, you will require extra monitoring and perhaps additional treatment to make sure you and baby are protected during pregnancy and birth. Depending on your risk factors, your prenatal care will likely include a combination of the following:
Genetic counseling is an important aspect of prenatal care, giving you time to discuss concerns about a hereditary condition or a family history of birth defects. Your doctor will help determine the appropriate prenatal testing and screening based on your personal and family medical history.
A prenatal diagnosis can be conducted during your prenatal examination. It provides your doctor the opportunity to test for fetal genetic disorders, as well as recommend care support and resources if a diagnosis of potential high-risk factors is made.
High blood glucose levels can be harmful to a baby during the first weeks of pregnancy. Because of this, women with Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes will require careful education, diet, exercise and insulin instruction during all stages of pregnancy.
An ultrasound evaluation provides a comprehensive assessment of fetal anatomy. Being a high-risk pregnancy means you will have routine ultrasound examinations performed by a registered sonographer and reviewed by a perinatologist.
The best way to protect your health and promote your baby’s health during a high-risk pregnancy is to plan ahead. Consultation services at the Methodist Perinatal Center allow you and your physician to discuss your personal risks and develop a customized plan of care that follows you from the time you become pregnant to the moment you welcome your precious newborn into the world.
Should anything happen, you can live with peace of mind that you have access to the Variety Intensive Care Nursery at Blank Children’s Hospital, the only Level IV NICU in Central Iowa, where it our mission to provide the highest level of care that promotes the optimal growth and development of your baby.