What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

The term “high-risk pregnancy” suggests that in order to have a healthy and successful pregnancy and delivery, extra care is needed. This is often the case if you suffer from a chronic illness or have other factors and conditions that may put you in the high-risk category.

It is even possible to begin a normal pregnancy and develop conditions that put you into the high-risk category. Regardless of what causes your pregnancy to become high-risk, it is likely that problems may persist with both you and/or the baby during the pregnancy, birth process, or even after the delivery.

The problems can be minor or life-threatening in severity for both the mother and the baby, requiring extra care and monitoring from your doctor.

Emotional Support for a High-Risk Pregnancy Diagnosis

A high-risk pregnancy can create many different feelings. In fact, you’re likely to feel a mix of emotions. These emotions may make it hard to enjoy your pregnancy because of all the stress and worry these emotions may create. You may worry about your health as well as the health of your baby, but your doctor should be able to help you manage these feelings.

Ask your provider for information and resources that you can use to help manage your emotions. You should also start building a support network to help manage these emotions. Your support can come from family, friends, and even other women in a similar situation. Sharing your thoughts feelings and concerns will give you an outlet and help to keep you informed and more in control of your feelings.

You may hear and read about many issues and complications that could happen as a result of your high-risk pregnancy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have a healthy baby. Manage your emotions by using your support system to help you through those moments when fear and worry set in.

Causes of a High-Risk Pregnancy

There are many factors that can make a pregnancy high-risk. If you had problems with a previous pregnancy or delivered a baby early, your next pregnancy may fall into the high-risk category as a result.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily experience the same problems again, but previous problems with a pregnancy may cause your doctor to monitor your health and the progression of the pregnancy more.

If you are someone who has had previous health conditions that may make your pregnancy high-risk, talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant. Your doctor can help you navigate the pregnancy process in a healthy and safe manner.

However, keep in mind that there are many conditions that can affect a pregnancy:

  • Blood disorders like sickle cell disease
  • Chronic kidney disease like preeclampsia
  • Depression includes both anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure (untreated high blood pressure can delay the growth of your baby and lead to placental abruption)
  • HIV or AIDS (HIV or AIDS can be passed to the baby before birth)
  • Lupus
  • Maternal age
  • Obesity ( A cesarean delivery may be a necessity as a result of obesity)
  • Thyroid disease (A thyroid condition may result in having your baby early)
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Both type 1 & 2 diabetes can result in fetal macrosomia: birthing a large baby.

High-Risk Pregnancy Environmental Triggers

Keep in mind that unhealthy lifestyle habits can affect pregnancy as well. Smoking, excess alcohol consumption and illicit drug use will increase your risk of pregnancy problems. In fact, drinking during pregnancy exposes your unborn child to many health risks, some fatal.
Furthermore, if you smoke you could give birth to a baby with low birth weight. If you struggle with unhealthy lifestyle issue, contact your doctor so that you can access help for these problems.

Some problems occur, even when a woman is healthy. Many of these can’t be anticipated or develop without an explanation.
Some include but are not limited to:

Will My Prenatal Care Be Different With a High-Risk?

Generally speaking, a high-risk pregnancy will more than likely require more frequent prenatal visits and closer monitoring. If your condition is serious enough, you may even be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctor for your care and treatment. This type of doctor has received special training in how to care for women are dealing with a high-risk pregnancy.

The exact care you will receive is dependent on your particular condition and circumstances. This doctor will more than likely continue to work with your ob-gyn to ensure that both you and the baby are healthy as the pregnancy progresses.

Does a High-Risk Pregnancy Affect Labor?

It is possible that a high-risk pregnancy could result in problems during labor. This is why home births, as well as birthing centers, are usually out of the question for high-risk pregnancies. A hospital is usually the best option and often the only one available because the proper equipment and personnel are there to closely monitor the birth process and step in if something goes wrong.

Furthermore, If you’re having multiples, you’re more likely to go into labor early, especially in a high-risk pregnancy. Preterm labor is common in high-risk pregnancies. Early labor may be caused by having too much amniotic fluid around the baby or having other medical conditions that cause early labor. Anything is possible. Your doctor may even have your la induced to prevent or reduce the likelihood of other health problems arising for you and your baby.

There may also be situations that make a vaginal birth too risky and you may need to have a c-section as a result. This is why it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor regarding what you may need to prepare for during labor so that you will be mentally prepared and know what to expect.

Is My Baby Going To Be Okay?

It’s natural for a high-risk pregnancy to cause anxiety over the health and wellness of the baby. Good prenatal care makes it possible to still have a healthy baby even if the pregnancy is high-risk. Keep the lines of communication open with your doctor and talk to him or her about your concerns and anything you can do to keep yourself and your baby as healthy as possible. This means discussing any drugs you may be taking and allowing your doctor to change your medications if they are not safe for the baby.
Note: Don’t stop taking any medication without consulting your provider first.

If complications occur as a result of some drug interaction or a health problem, the results could be early childbirth, which could result in difficulty breathing and feeding, not to mention a whole host of other complications. If this happens, the baby may have to spend more time in the hospital to stabilize and get well, in addition to requiring more care and attention. When this happens, newborn babies are often placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

How to Reduce High-Risk Pregnancy Complications

If you fall into the high-risk category during your pregnancy there are things you can do to increase the health and wellness of both your unborn child and yourself and avoid pregnancy complications:

  • Schedule a preconception visit with your doctor
  • Find out all you can about your condition
  • Go to all your prenatal appointments
  • Have a healthy lifestyle gain the right amount of weight and stay active if you’re able
  • Ask your partner, family, and friends for support
  • Look after your emotional well-being

Want to Know More?


Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy Complications.

2. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. High-risk pregnancy.

3. Office on Women’s Health. Prenatal care and tests: High-risk pregnancy.

4. Merck Manual. Overview of a high-risk pregnancy.

5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hypertension in pregnancy.

6. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. A healthy pregnancy for women with diabetes.