A pregnancy is considered high-risk when there are potential complications that could affect the mother, the baby, or both. High-risk pregnancies require management by a specialist to help ensure the best outcome for the mother and baby.
Risk Factors for High-Risk Pregnancy
Reasons that a pregnancy may be considered high risk include:
Maternal Age – One of the most common risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy is the age of the mother-to-be. Women who will be under age 17 or over age 35 when their baby is due are at greater risk of complications. The risk of miscarriage and genetic defects further increases after age 40.
Medical Conditions that exist before Pregnancy – Conditions such as High Blood Pressure, lungs, kidney or heart problems; diabetes, autoimmune disease, or chronic infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can present risks for the mother and/or her unborn baby.
Pregnancy related issues – Often a pregnancy is classified as high risk because of issues that arise from the pregnancy itself and that have little to do with the mother’s health. These include:
- Premature Labor is labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Although there is no way to know which women will experience preterm labor or birth, there are factors that place women at higher risk, such as certain infections, a shortened cervix, or previous preterm birth.
- Fetal problems, which can sometimes be seen on ultrasound. Approximately 2% to 3% of all babies have a minor or major structural problem in development. Sometimes there may be a family history of fetal problems, but other times these problems are completely unexpected.
- Multiple births means you are carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc.). Multiple pregnancies, which are more common as women are using more infertility treatments, increase the risk of premature labor, gestational diabetes, and pregnancy-induced High Blood Pressure.
Apart from all the factors, a history of miscarriage, problems with a previous pregnancy or pregnancies, or a family history of genetic disorders are risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy.