Whether this is your first time being pregnant or your second pregnancy, it's never easy to find out that your pregnancy is high-risk.
Growing a baby in your belly can be stressful enough. Finding out that you're undergoing a high-risk pregnancy definitely adds more concern.
What Is A High-Risk Pregnancy?
A high-risk pregnancy can threaten the health or life of the fetus or the mother.
The risk can arise before pregnancy has begun, at the start of the pregnancy, or as it progresses over the mother's term. Therefore, it's mostly related to pre-existing conditions that a mother has had before getting pregnant or conditions developed during pregnancy or delivery.
A high-risk pregnancy doesn't always mean that your pregnancy will be more challenging or complex than a low-risk pregnancy. However, it does mean that you should consult with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to ensure you get the proper monitoring.
Risk Factors for High-Risk Pregnancy
Now that you're familiar with what a high-risk pregnancy is, let's get into some of the reasons that a pregnancy may be considered high-risk:
One of the most common risk factors for high-risk pregnancies is the age of the woman. Women under the age of 17 or over the age of 35 when their baby is due are at greater risk of complications than those in their late teens and early 30s.
Medical Conditions Before Pregnancy:
Medical conditions that existed even before pregnancy can pose risks to the mother or baby, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
A history of miscarriage, family history of genetic disorders, or problems with a previous pregnancy can also affect future pregnancies.
If you do have a medical condition, it would be best to speak to your doctor about wanting to get pregnant. Running tests and adjusting medication can lead you on the right track to good health for you and your baby.
Medical Conditions During Pregnancy:
Even if you have a healthy history before getting pregnant, it's very possible to develop problems as your pregnancy progresses. Some examples of risk factors would include:
Preeclampsia is when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure, protein in the urine, swelling in their legs, feet, and hands. This usually happens late in the pregnancy term, but it can also arise earlier on or even just after delivery. If you manage this correctly, you can still give birth to a very healthy baby. You have a higher chance of developing preeclampsia if you're of older age, overweight, or have had high blood pressure before getting pregnant.
Depression can also have an impact on the risk of your pregnancy as it's linked to hormonal changes, exhaustion, stress, and lack of support. Depression can lead to complications during pregnancy, as well as problems with delivery, birth weight, and preterm birth. Even after you give birth, depression can make it difficult to care for yourself and your child. Postpartum is something that many women deal with even after going through pregnancy and delivery.
Checking The Fetus In High-Risk Pregnancy
Even during high-risk pregnancies, you can still grow and give birth to a perfectly healthy baby as long as proper measures are taken.
Women whose pregnancies are high-risk may be scheduled for a biophysical profile (BPP), a test that checks fetal health. Essentially, it combines a non-stress test (NST) with an ultrasound exam, and it's typically done after the 28th week of pregnancy.
Proper measures to take during a high-risk pregnancy
You can do many things to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy, even if it is considered high-risk. Here are some tips:
Get regular prenatal care:
This is one of the most important things you can do, especially if you're considered high-risk. Getting regular check-ups will help your doctor catch any problems early on, which can make a big difference in the outcome of your pregnancy.
Be sure to eat healthy and exercise:
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are essential for all pregnant women. Still, it's especially crucial if you're considered high-risk. Eating right and staying active will help you maintain a healthy weight, reducing your risk of complications.
Manage any chronic conditions:
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, manage it carefully during pregnancy. This means taking your medication as prescribed and seeing your doctor regularly.
Avoid risky behaviors:
Certain behaviors can increase your risk of complications, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs. If you're pregnant, it's essential to avoid these behaviors to give your baby the best chance of a healthy pregnancy.
The importance of maternal health during a high-risk pregnancy
Maternal health is vital during any stage of pregnancy, but it's especially crucial during a high-risk pregnancy. It's critical for mothers to take care of themselves physically and emotionally to give their babies the best chance at a healthy pregnancy.
Physical health is essential for mothers during a high-risk pregnancy. Some common issues that may arise during this time are gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia. It's important for mothers to monitor their health closely and seek treatment if they notice any changes.
Maternal emotional health is also significant during a high-risk pregnancy. Many mothers may feel overwhelmed or stressed during this time. Mothers need to seek support from friends and family and be proactive in seeking out mental health treatment if they feel like they're struggling.
The importance of fetal health during a high-risk pregnancy
The health of the baby is just as important as the mother's health during a high-risk pregnancy. The baby will need to be monitored closely by a healthcare team to ensure that they are developing correctly. Some common issues that may arise during a high-risk pregnancy are premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.
Premature birth is one of the most significant risks associated with a high-risk pregnancy. Premature babies are at risk for several health complications, including respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, vision, and hearing loss. In some cases, premature babies may require special care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Low Birth Weight
Low birth weight is a condition that can occur when a baby is born weighing less than 5.5 pounds. It can be due to the baby being premature (born before 37 weeks gestation). It can also be due to the baby's low body weight for its gestational age. Low birth weight can also be caused by certain health conditions that the mother has, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Low birth weight babies are at increased risk for several health problems, including respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis (a severe infection), and jaundice. They may also have difficulty regulating their body temperature and feeding. Low birth weight babies are more likely to be hospitalized
Birth defects are a common issue that can occur during a high-risk pregnancy. Some birth defects can be minor, while others can be more serious. Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and palate, and Down syndrome.
If your baby is diagnosed with a birth defect, it's important to seek support from family and friends. There are also some organizations that can provide support and resources.
The implications of a high-risk pregnancy on the delivery process
A high-risk pregnancy can mean a greater chance of experiencing health complications for both the mother and the baby. These complications might include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature birth. Depending on the severity of the risk factors, a high-risk pregnancy may require more frequent doctor visits, specialized prenatal care, and close monitoring during labor and delivery.
What to expect after giving birth in a high-risk pregnancy situation
If you've had a high-risk pregnancy, you can expect a more extended stay in the hospital after giving birth. You and your baby will likely require more intensive care and observation than women who have had low-risk pregnancies. In some cases, your baby might need to be transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for special care. You can also expect to have more frequent check-ups with your doctor in the months and years following the birth of your baby.
Pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation for many women. Still, it can also be accompanied by high levels of anxiety. Your healthcare team must provide you with the proper measures to take during pregnancy to not endanger yourself or your baby. If you find out that you are pregnant at an older age, know that this doesn't necessarily mean your pregnancy will be high-risk. However, certain risk factors can increase the chances of a high-risk pregnancy, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and more.
During a high-risk pregnancy, you can expect more frequent doctor visits and check-ups and monitor for any potential complications. Your healthcare team will likely recommend lifestyle changes and close monitoring of your diet and fitness. You may also be advised to avoid travel during your pregnancy. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, try to stay calm and follow your doctor's orders to ensure a healthy pregnancy.