There is no single definition of what comprises a high-risk pregnancy, but most medical professionals define a high-risk pregnancy as one that puts the baby or mother at a greater health risks than usual, or one that may cause complications at the time of delivery.[1.Artal, R. (2015) “High-Risk Pregnancy.” Merck Manuals. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/high-risk-pregnancy/high-risk-pregnancy]
In many cases, high-risk pregnancies are a result of a preexisting condition that the mother had before becoming pregnant. Only six to eight percent of pregnancies are considered high-risk, and even many of those that are high-risk have healthy outcomes for both the mother and her baby through regular care by specially-trained medical professionals.[2.University of California San Francisco Medical Center. (2015). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/high-risk_pregnancy/] It’s still advisable to continue with your regular prenatal office visits to keep you and the baby as healthy as possible throughout the duration of your pregnancy.
Age is a factor that plays a very important role in pregnancy safety. Women who are 35 or older could be at higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, preeclampsia (a form of high blood pressure that can be brought on in pregnancy), and gestational diabetes, as well as labor complications such as placenta that detaches too soon or isn’t in the appropriate place. Very young mothers (under 15) can also face high-risk pregnancies; specifically, preeclampsia, anemia, and having babies who are underweight.[3.Artal, R.; see above.]
Sometimes, women who have had pregnancy complications in the past are more likely to develop issues with future pregnancies (typically, the same issue). Having had any of the following issues could put a future pregnancy at risk: giving birth to babies that are under or overweight, previous miscarriage, late delivery, Rh incompatibility requiring blood transfusion to the fetus, cesarean delivery (although research is still limited on this, women who have had a previous C-section may be at a higher risk for problems with the placenta and uterine rupture at the scar line of the previous C-section[4.Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015 August 4). “C-Section: Risks.” Retrieved November 29, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/basics/risks/prc-20014571]), stillbirth, seizure disorders, pregnancies with more than one fetus, giving birth in breech position, polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid inside the uterus), or having a baby with birth defects.[5.Artal, R.; see above.]
When a woman has a medical disorder prior to becoming pregnant, it’s possible that pregnancy can worsen the issue or increase the risk of problems. Such disorders include heart failure, kidney disorders and infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and sexually transmitted infections. [6.Artal, R.; see above.]
High-risk pregnancies can understandably cause concern, but medical professionals are trained to look for any signs of concern with both abnormal and high-risk pregnancies. With women who have abnormal or high-risk pregnancies, doctors may want to see expectant mothers more frequently for office visits or perform more ultrasounds to check on the health of the baby and the mother as a preventative caution. [7.Artal, R.; see above.]