What Is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

Knowing what defines a high-risk pregnancy could help you get the best care.

By FamilyTime


Many women have high-risk pregnancies and sail through the gestational months with high marks. Doctors and other health professionals are able to care for women who fall under this umbrella so that at the end of nine months, a healthy infant is placed in his mother’s waiting arms.

But what is a high-risk pregnancy?

Many factors define the condition but in general it is a pregnancy that needs extra attention. In some cases, the pregnant woman will go exclusively to a doctor who is trained in caring for high-risk cases; in others, she will have a few visits with the specialist in addition to appointments with her regular obstetrician.

Who Is at Risk?

The women most at risk for these pregnancies are those with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, epilepsy, and kidney disease.

Also at risk are women who smoke, drink alcohol in excess, use drugs, or are extremely over or underweight. Doctors put women in the high-risk pool who have had multiple miscarriages, multiple births (twins, triplets), previous problem pregnancies, or have genetic conditions running in their families.

Some women develop conditions as their pregnancies progress that make them high risk. The most common of these are preeclampsia and eclampsia, and gestational diabetes. With good medical care these can be controlled.

Most doctors categorize both very young (teenagers) and older women as being high risk, too. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances in any of these and other incidences.

What Should You Do?

If you are considered high risk, find a doctor you trust and follow his or her advice to the letter. Ask questions and listen to his answers. Put yourself in her hands for the coming months.

This means going to every appointment, which most likely will be more frequent than those for other women. It means showing up for all tests ordered by the doctor, which could be critical to your child’s development, your health, or both.

Eat a healthful diet and stay away from alcohol. Talk to your doctor about this and take his advice on supplements and vitamins, too.

Take no medication that is not prescribed or ordered by the doctor. This goes for over-the-counter medications and vitamins. If you have a cold, call your doctor before grabbing something at the pharmacy.

Exercise only as directed by your physician. Ask her about walking, running, yoga, biking—anything that involves more than just everyday moving around your house, office, and town.

Avoid people who smoke (second-hand smoke is not good for you or the baby). Try to limit exposure to colds. Wash your hands even more often than normal to limit germs. Get plenty of sleep. In other words, think a little more carefully about your overall health than normal.

A high-risk pregnancy does not mean you won’t have a trouble-free pregnancy, normal birth, and (most importantly) a healthy baby. Yet, it does mean you will have to be more diligent than other women.

When the end result is a beautiful baby boy or girl, such diligence is a small price to pay!