High Risk Pregnancy

Pregnancy risk factors and how to minimize them

While the vast majority of pregnancies end with a healthy baby being born to a healthy mother, all pregnancies carry an inherent degree of risk. If you've just learned you're pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant, it is very important that you have an understanding of pregnancy risk factors to reduce the chances of complications arising. Certain conditions can also lead to a "high risk pregnancy" designation, in which case you'll be placed under closer medical scrutiny and will have to take extra precautions to protect your health and the health of your unborn baby.

Pregnancy Risk Factors

Broadly speaking, pregnancy risk factors can be broken down into two categories: those that exist prior to pregnancy, and those that occur as the result of becoming pregnant.

Preexisting conditions which can lead to a high risk pregnancy include:

  • Advanced age
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Weight (both underweight and overweight women have higher rates of pregnancy complications)
  • Epilepsy
  • Thyroid diseases

Other risk factors include a history of complications during pregnancy, previous miscarriages, previous C-sections and previous preterm births. If you've had six or more babies, or if you've given birth to an infant with a low birth weight, your obstetrician may also designate your pregnancy as being at increased risk.

Risk factors that occur as a result of getting pregnant include an abnormal fetal position, pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes, placenta problems and infections of internal organs, which are more likely to happen to pregnant women. If you're pregnant with twins or triplets, you also have a greater risk of experiencing complications.

Managing a High Risk Pregnancy

If you're underweight and pregnant, it's important that you increase your caloric intake as directed by your doctor, as proper nutrition during pregnancy is extremely important. Conversely, if you're overweight and pregnant, you've got to find the right balance between meeting your unique nutritional needs and managing your weight. Remaining active during pregnancy is very important for all expectant mothers, regardless of weight.

It's important that you begin prenatal care early in your pregnancy, ensure you're getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day and have all your immunizations up to date; even if you don't have heightened pregnancy risk factors, being proactive about your health during pregnancy is always beneficial.