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Health & Pregnancy

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Managing a High-Risk Pregnancy

Risk Factors for High-Risk Pregnancy continued...

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.
  • 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.
  • Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix. The condition can cause bleeding, especially if a woman has contractions. If the placenta still covers the cervix close to delivery, the doctor may schedule a cesarean section to reduce bleeding risks to the mother and baby.
  • 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.

Preventing and Treating Pregnancy Complications

Even if you don't have an existing health problem, many doctors recommend a preconception appointment with your health-care provider to ensure you are as healthy as you can be before you become pregnant. At this appointment your doctor may recommend steps you can take to reduce the risk of certain problems. These include:

  • Getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, beginning before and continuing through pregnancy
  • Getting proper immunizations
  • Eating a healthy diet and maintaining proper weight
  • Getting regular physical activity, unless advised otherwise by your doctor
  • Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs (except for medications approved by your doctor)
  • See your doctor regularly

If your pregnancy is considered high risk, your doctor may refer you to a perinatologist. Also called a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, a perinatologist is an obstetrician with special training in high-risk pregnancy care. This specialist will work with your other doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals to ensure the best possible outcome for both you and your baby.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on January 14, 2015
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