Is Your Pregnancy High Risk?
Pregnancy is exciting, but also sometimes unsettling. What if there’s a problem?
Certain factors mean you have a “high-risk pregnancy.” Usually, these pregnancies go well, and you deliver your baby in great health. Still, it’s important to talk to your doctor – and perhaps see a specialist – if you have any condition that puts you at risk.
Age is one of the most common reasons a woman has a high-risk pregnancy. Most babies born to older moms are just fine, but statistically women over 35 are more likely to have babies with birth defects. Older moms are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes and preeclampsia -- problems that can harm both mother and child.
Teen mothers are also more likely to have babies with medical issues, including low birth weight, premature birth, or stillbirth. Social problems that put teens at risk of getting pregnant -- such as sexual abuse or using drugs or alcohol -- put their babies’ health at risk as well.
Overweight women are more likely to develop preeclampsia or gestational diabetes while they’re pregnant. They’re also more likely to go into premature labor. Babies born to obese women may be large and require a C-section delivery. They also are at higher risk of having a birth defect.
On the flipside, being underweight also puts your baby at risk. Your baby could be born early and with a low birth weight. Babies born to underweight moms more often have behavioral problems as children and adults.
Your Health Before You Got Pregnant
Many health problems can increase the risk to moms and babies during pregnancy. You can usually overcome them with good medical care. Work closely with your doctor, even before you get pregnant, if you have one of these problems:
- Autoimmune disease
- Breathing problems
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Previous miscarriages
- STDs or HIV
Your Health During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can take a toll on your body – usually minor discomforts that you forget the moment your baby is born. But sometimes a serious problem can develop.
Gestational diabetes: For a small number of women -- 2% to 10% -- pregnancy makes them more resistant to insulin, the hormone that processes blood sugar. Your risk of gestational diabetes goes up if you are over 25, overweight, have had gestational diabetes or a very large baby in the past, or if someone in your family has diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the chance that your baby will grow quite large inside you and may need to be delivered by C-section. It can also raise your risk of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia: This is a serious condition that affects 5% to 8% of pregnant women, and it can put all of your vital organs under stress. Preeclampsia means you have high blood pressure, swelling, and urinary protein while you’re pregnant. It can restrict your baby’s flow of oxygen. No one is sure what causes preeclampsia. Women are at higher risk for preeclampsia if they are older, overweight, or had high blood pressure or diabetes before they got pregnant. Carrying more than one baby also raises your risk. Preeclampsia may require a hospital stay, early delivery, or C-section.