A high-risk pregnancy is when the mother and/or fetus are at higher risk for problems during pregnancy or labor than in a typical pregnancy. However, with proper medical care and controlling the risks, many women deliver a healthy baby.
At Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN, our team of physicians has extensive experience in providing support and treatment for high-risk pregnancies.
Risk Factors for a High-Risk Pregnancy
- Maternal Age. Pregnancies at a young age (younger than age 17) or first-time pregnancies after age 35 are at a greater risk of complications than those between their late teens and early 30s.
- Lifestyle factors. Alcohol use, tobacco use, and drug use can put a pregnancy at risk.
- Conditions of pregnancy. Certain conditions can develop during pregnancy, such as multiple gestations (pregnancy with twins, triplets, or more); gestational diabetes; preeclampsia and eclampsia; previous preterm birth; congenital disabilities or genetic conditions in the fetus.
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia are serious conditions that can be fatal for both the mother and the fetus or cause long-term health problems.Preeclampsia is a sudden increase of the mother’s blood pressure, urinary protein, and swelling after the 20th week of pregnancy. Eclampsia is more severe and can cause seizures and coma.
- Existing health conditions. Health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, PCOS, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, obesity, HIV/AIDs, and Zika infection, put a pregnancy at risk.
Impact of COVID-19 on Pregnant Women
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk for severe illness and might be at risk for preterm birth. The full impact of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in pregnancy is unknown. The Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies Network (SET-NET) will continue to follow pregnancies affected by COVID-19 to term and infants until age 6 months to guide clinical and public health practice.
Preconception Plan for High-Risk Pregnancies
If you suspect you have a higher risk for problems during pregnancy, you should consult with one of our OB/GYN physicians before getting pregnant. Your doctor will work with you to develop a preconception plan to get healthy and have a healthy pregnancy. During your appointment, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, including pregnancy history (if any), your lifestyle and behaviors, your medications, and your vaccinations. Your doctor may also run tests (e.g., ultrasound, lab tests), adjust medications, or advise you of precautions to take before you become pregnant, including
- Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day (helps prevent significant congenital disabilities of the baby’s brain and spine).
- Avoiding drinking alcohol, smoking, and using certain drugs.
- Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Ensuring existing medical conditions are under control.
- Learning your family history.
- Getting mentally healthy.
Medical Management for a High-Risk Pregnancy
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your OB/GYN physician will closely monitor you and your baby, which may require more prenatal appointments and testing (e.g., blood work or ultrasounds) than a traditional pregnancy. Be sure to go to all your doctor appointments and scheduled tests and closely follow your doctor’s advice and instructions.
Depending on any medical conditions that may come up or existing conditions that may flare-up, your doctor may have you see specialists to help monitor and manage your care. For example, if you have a preexisting kidney condition and your lab tests show an increase of protein in your urine, your OB/GYN may refer you to a nephrologist to help monitor your condition.
Signs and Symptoms Requiring Immediate Medical Care
You need to be especially vigilant for a high-risk pregnancy and watch out for any of these signs and symptoms.
- Faintness or Dizziness
- A Gush of Fluid
- A Change In Type or Odor of Vaginal Discharge
- A UTI
- A Headache
- Blurry Vision
- A Fever
- A Change in the Baby’s Movement
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek out immediate medical care. They may not amount to anything, but it is best to know for sure and see your doctor or go to the hospital to get checked out.
Outlook for a High-Risk Pregnancy
High-Risk Pregnancy Care at Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN
While OB/GYN is considered one specialty, it actually comprises two separate fields.
Obstetrics (OB) is the branch of medicine that deals with pregnancy, labor, and birth, as well as the female reproductive system. Most obstetricians also have training in diagnosing and treating problems of the female reproductive system.
Gynecology (GYN) focuses on caring for women through the various stages and transitions of life. Gynecology includes the diagnosis, treatment, and preventive care of conditions relating to a woman’s reproductive system including the vagina, uterus, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes. Learn More
With obstetrics care, you can be confident that a well trained OB/GYN is handling your pregnancy and reproductive concerns.
Some women have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy than others. The number one factor that contributes to a high-risk pregnancy is a previous history of reproductive complications or miscarriages. Several other factors can also qualify you as high-risk, including:
- Health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, asthma, heart disease, seizure disorder, autoimmune disorders, or a personal history of cancer
- Being very young or over the age of 35
- Having a history of or current diagnosis of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, or pre-eclampsia
- Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or a higher-order multiple)
- Uterine anomalies or uterine fibroids
- Teratogen exposure (through certain prescription medications, narcotics, illicit drugs, or alcohol)
Your physician can evaluate and treat any issues that arise during a high-risk pregnancy. This might include consultations with a Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist.
Some complications may require bed rest or hospitalization, which gives your growing baby the time it needs to develop more fully.
At Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN, your physician and the entire OB/GYN team provides expert prenatal care and women’s health services necessary to bring a happy, healthy baby into the world.
Whether you’re a newly expectant mother or looking to conceive, the obstetric physicians consider delivering babies to be the highlight of their jobs. With state-of-the-art facilities that are equipped to provide the best in prenatal and birth services, you’ll find all the resources and support you need to feel educated, empowered, and excited about your pregnancy journey.
If failed attempts or miscarriages have marked your pregnancy journey, the Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN offers Infertility treatment that can help you get on the path toward a healthy conception.