A high-risk pregnancy means that the mother or baby is at higher risk of having a health problem before, after, or during delivery. It is important to receive early maternal and prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies.
High-risk pregnancies may be caused by a prior medical condition, fetal complications or abnormalities, or critical care issues. Expert doctors called maternal-fetal medicine specialists can provide early diagnoses and treatments for high-risk pregnancies, including special monitoring and advanced prenatal care.
What is Considered a High-Risk Pregnancy?
There are several risk factors and symptoms that characterize a high-risk pregnancy. Some risk factors, including maternal age, serious disease, and certain preexisting health conditions..
If the fetus has certain structural or genetic abnormalities, that can also pose a higher risk of complications during your pregnancy. Your previous history of pregnancies and complications, prenatal test results, and certain symptoms during pregnancy, such as bleeding, can also cause a pregnancy to be considered high risk.
High-Risk Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms
There are common signs and symptoms of a high-risk pregnancy that could indicate an underlying health condition or potential pregnancy complications, which may include:
- Abdominal pain (ongoing)
- Chest pain
- Decreased or no fetal movement
- Extreme fatigue
- Fainting or lightheaded
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble breathing
- Severe headache
- Swelling, redness, pain in limbs
- Vaginal bleeding and discharge
Call your doctor if you experience any of the above signs or symptoms, as you may require immediate care.
High-Risk Pregnancy Risk Factors
The leading causes of a high-risk pregnancy may be related to a preexisting medical condition, lifestyle factors, pregnancy-related health concerns, or your history of previous pregnancies. Early prenatal care and evaluation of any of these risk factors can help you have as healthy and safe a pregnancy as possible.
Preexisting medical conditions may cause a high-risk pregnancy such as:
- Autoimmune disease
- Blood disorders
- Diabetes/Endocrine disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Infectious disease (COVID-19, flu, strep throat)
- Kidney or gastrointestinal disease
- Placental disease
- Pulmonary disease
- Surgical conditions
- Vascular disease
- Women’s emotional or mental health
Health conditions arising during pregnancy may cause a high-risk pregnancy include:
- Pregnancy-related depression
- Gestational diabetes
- Irregularly shaped uterus
- Placenta disorder
Lifestyle choices may contribute to a high-risk pregnancy, including:
- Alcohol use
- Drug use
Your pregnancy history may cause a high-risk pregnancy, such as:
- Certain genetic conditions and abnormalities
- Previous premature labor or birth
- Poor growth/small fetal size
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia
- Pregnancies with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
Preventing High-Risk Pregnancy
Certain factors, such as chronic health conditions and genetic disorders that cause high-risk pregnancies, are not preventable. But others, such as having regular ob/gyn care and planning for a healthy pregnancy, can help prevent or reduce the likelihood of having a high-risk pregnancy.
One of the best ways to have a healthy pregnancy is to discuss your health status with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, also known as a perinatologist.
Other steps to prevent a high-risk pregnancy include:
- Avoiding drug and alcohol use
- Checking your family and personal health history
- Having safe sex
- Keeping a healthy body weight
- Good nutrition and regular exercise
- Monitoring current health conditions
- Planning pregnancies between the age of 18-35
- Reviewing medications for safe use during pregnancy
- Smoking cessation
NewYork-Presbyterian offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating high-risk pregnancies with specialty doctors, including perinatologists, neonatologists, ob/gyns, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and more, for your complete care.
Reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian for High-Risk Pregnancy Help
At NewYork-Presbyterian, our collaborative team of maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctors utilize advanced technology and innovative techniques to provide a full range of specialized pregnancy care. For a high-risk pregnancy, NewYork-Presbyterian offers a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for both mother and baby to receive the very best care.
Contact us to make an appointment with an MFM doctor or a perinatologist.