Heath Hub: High Risk Pregnancy

How to know if your pregnancy is "high risk."

Is it a high-risk pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy is a pregnancy that requires special monitoring and care due to a greater-than-normal potential for complications that could harm the mother, her baby, or both. If you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, it’s important to know if your pregnancy could be classified as “high-risk” so that you can do everything possible to keep yourself and your baby safe.

Pre-existing health conditions

When a mother-to-be has a chronic health problem such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, kidney or heart disease, or a thyroid disorder, pregnancy may put the mother or her fetus at increased risk. Other chronic conditions in high-risk territory include blood disorders, HIV/AIDS infection, autoimmune disease and polycystic ovary syndrome. You may also be considered high risk if you smoke, drink alcohol during pregnancy or use certain prescription or recreational drugs.

Conditions arising during pregnancy

It’s not uncommon for a normal-risk pregnancy to become a high-risk one due to complications that arise during gestation. These conditions include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, anemia, infections, pre-term labor, fetal heart conditions and other problems in the developing baby.

Mother's age and other considerations

Fair or not, the medical consensus is that any pregnancy (especially a first pregnancy) in a woman who is 35 years old or older can be considered “high risk.” Likewise, very young mothers aged 17 or below have a higher risk of complications. Women who have had problems with a previous pregnancy or who are pregnant with more than one baby are also considered at higher risk.

Don’t jump to conclusions

The mere designation of “high risk” is not necessarily reason to worry. Many women with high-risk pregnancies give birth to perfectly healthy babies with no complications whatsoever. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you will need to attend more frequent prenatal visits and – depending on the circumstances – you may be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine doctor who works with your OB-GYN to provide advanced testing and treatment throughout your pregnancy.

To-do list for high-risk moms:

If you know or suspect that your pregnancy could be considered high risk, don’t panic – be pro-active. Here’s what you can do to help mitigate the risks for you and your baby, feel more informed, and hopefully enjoy your pregnancy.

  • Schedule a preconception visit with your doctor, or if already pregnant, schedule a visit as soon as possible
  • Attend all of your prenatal appointments
  • Stay active and practice a healthy lifestyle
  • Reach out to your partner, family and friends for support

Rachel Humphrey, MD, is a board-certified perinatologist, Director of Florida Hospital for Women’s Maternal-Fetal Program and an award-winning physician at High Risk Pregnancy Consultants.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit FHMedicalGroup.com or call (407) 988-2226.

Florida Hospital Medical Group is the Orlando area’s most comprehensive multi-specialty medical group practice. With nearly 600 board-certified physicians, our group provides patients with a broad range of medical and surgical services across more than 40 medical specialties.

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