When you’re pregnant, it can be easy to worry about lots of things — but your health and the health of your unborn baby are often up there at the top of the list. The majority of expectant mothers want to have the healthiest pregnancy possible and, while prenatal care and a healthy lifestyle can go a long way, many women find themselves in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy through no fault of their own.
Hearing that you are carrying a “high-risk pregnancy” from your doctor can be terrifying, especially if this is your first pregnancy. However, the way doctors manage high-risk pregnancies today is very different from years past. In fact, medical treatment has continually improved over the last few decades, and there are more options that ever before for safely treating high-risk pregnancies.
Remember: While helpful, the information in this article is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Your doctor should always be your first source of information when it comes to your high-risk pregnancy. If you are concerned about your pregnancy, whatever your situation, make sure to schedule an appointment with your medical professional right away.
In the meantime, you can learn more about high-risk pregnancy below.
What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?
Before we dive into the specifics of this topic, it’s important that you understand the answer to this question: What does high-risk pregnancy mean?
The “high-risk pregnancy definition” includes many different conditions and situations. But, generally put, a high-risk pregnancy is any pregnancy that threatens the health or life of the expectant mother or her unborn baby. A high-risk pregnancy requires special care that often only specially trained providers can give.
A high-risk pregnancy can exist from the time when a woman conceives, or it can be a condition that develops as the pregnancy progresses. No two high-risk pregnancies are the same. Some pregnancies may hold more risk when a woman actually carries the baby, while others may be more dangerous during labor and delivery or even after the baby is born. Some high-risk pregnancies are more dangerous than others, but all should be taken seriously by an expectant mother and her physician.
Currently, the United States has a very high maternal death rate in comparison to countries with the same medical advancements and level of care. About 700 U.S. women die every year as a result of a high-risk pregnancy or delivery complications, while up to 50,000 women nearly die due to severe complications during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the problem is only getting worse; new statistics show that pregnancy-related deaths jumped by almost 27 percent from 2000 to 2014.
About half of maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable. This means proper care from a doctor is incredibly important for every woman facing a high-risk pregnancy. It’s equally important that you take the time to learn as much as you can about the facts of pregnancy (especially what makes a pregnancy high-risk with your own health situation) to advocate for the best healthcare possible.
Am I Considered High-Risk Pregnancy?
So, what is considered a high-risk pregnancy? This is a common question from women like you.
At this point, you may be wondering how to know if you’re a high-risk pregnancy. After all, it’s important to be aware of your health situation during this life-changing journey. Whether your pregnancy was planned or not, know that you need to be your own advocate during the next nine months.
Ultimately, the only person who can determine what is considered “high-risk” pregnancy is your doctor. He or she will take several factors into account when deciding what kind of special care you may need during your pregnancy due to your personal medical history.
But, if you’re wondering whether your pregnancy might meet the high-risk pregnancy definition, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I older than 35? Pregnancy risks are much higher for expectant mothers older than 35. These pregnancies are often known as “geriatric pregnancies” or “advanced maternal age pregnancies.”
- Do I have a complicated medical history? Certain chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disorders, can greatly increase pregnancy risks. Your doctor will determine whether or not your medical history makes your pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy.
- Do I have a history of pregnancy complications? If you have had previous pregnancies with serious complications (such as gestational diabetes, placental complications or more), your doctor may anticipate those complications arising again — making your pregnancy high-risk.
- Have I experienced pregnancy complications? Even if you don’t have a history of pregnancy complications, your pregnancy will often automatically be determined high-risk should you develop any serious complications during the next nine months.
- Am I carrying more than one baby? A multiples pregnancy comes with much higher risks than a singleton pregnancy. For this reason, a twin or triplet pregnancy is often automatically deemed a “high-risk” pregnancy.
- Do I have an unhealthy lifestyle? Sometimes, women are dealing with lifestyle factors that are difficult to manage or beyond their control. For example, if you are overweight, addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs, or simply not living the healthy lifestyle a doctor would recommend, your pregnancy risks will drastically increase.
- Do I have a history of uterine surgeries? Surgeries such as multiple caesarian-sections, surgery for uterine tumors and more can increase pregnancy risks.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, or you have a feeling that something is “off” with your pregnancy, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local obstetrician. Proper prenatal care is important in every pregnancy but especially in those that are high-risk. Without medical attention, you put yourself and your baby at risk of complications, painful situations and even death. Don’t underestimate the importance of prenatal care in a high-risk pregnancy, and don’t be naïve in thinking a healthy lifestyle is all that’s needed for a successful pregnancy and bringing a healthy baby into the world.
If you haven’t yet located a local obstetrician for your pregnancy, start finding one here.