A high-risk pregnancy doctor has the experience and skills to help keep you and your baby safe. Here are some important facts about risk factors in pregnancy and the role played by your medical team.
What Are the High-Risk Factors in Pregnancy?
Certain factors can make pregnancy high risk. These include prior experience of a high-risk pregnancy, maternal lifestyle choices, specific health conditions, and complications that develop during pregnancy. Pregnancy complications might include slow fetal growth (fetal growth restriction) and abnormal position of the placenta.
Any woman who is pregnant after the age of 35 may be considered high-risk. A pregnancy with multiples, when a woman is carrying more than one fetus, is also a high-risk scenario.
What Conditions May Lead to High-Risk Pregnancy?
The following health conditions are factors and lifestyle choices that can lead to a need for extra care and evaluation:
- Thyroid disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disorders
- Blood disorders
- Tobacco/alcohol/drug use
When you have doctor appointments during a high-risk pregnancy, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive specific guidance to optimize your health.
Preventing and Treating Pregnancy Complications
There are a number of ways you can take care of yourself and your baby during a high-risk pregnancy. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or some additions to your routine, such as:
- Supplements like folic acid and healthy food to promote fetal development;
- Regular and safe exercise;
- Recommended medical interventions, such as monitoring, tests, and immunizations;
Depending on the nature of your high-risk pregnancy, your doctor will have additional recommendations. That’s why it’s important to develop a strong relationship with your medical service provider as you await the birth of your new baby.
Why is Age a Common High-Risk Factor?
Many older women have normal pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies. But the risk of pregnancy complications increases in women over the age of 35. Gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and other medical issues are more common in pregnancies of older women. In addition, the frequency of the following risk factors goes up:
- Multiple pregnancies, sometimes related to fertility treatments;
- Babies with low birth weight or born early/prematurely;
- History of miscarriage or stillbirth;
- Fetal chromosomal abnormalities;
- Placental issues, such as placenta previa, that lead to C-section or early delivery.
Because of these factors, your doctor may deem your pregnancy a high risk if you are over the age of 35. That means your doctor should take extra care to ensure your health and that of your child.
What Questions Should You Ask Your Provider?
You should feel comfortable asking your high-risk pregnancy doctor all questions on your mind. Every expectant parent is different, but some common questions include:
- Why is my pregnancy high risk?
- How can I take the best care of myself and my baby?
- Should I take any medications, supplements, or eat certain foods during my pregnancy?
- Are there any activities I should avoid?
- What should I expect at the time of delivery?
- What are my options for the birth?
Your pregnancy experience is unique to you. That’s why you should ask your healthcare providers any questions on your mind, no matter how small they may seem.
How Often Should You Visit Your Doctor During High-Risk Pregnancy?
Prenatal care is always important, but it becomes even more so during a high-risk pregnancy. Your doctor may want to set up a more frequent schedule of consultations in order to monitor you and your baby.
The schedule for a normal pregnancy is about one visit per month up to 30 weeks gestation, then twice a month to 36 weeks gestation, then weekly until you have your baby.
Preterm Labor and Its Concerns
A typical gestation period is 40 weeks. If labor begins before 37 weeks or earlier, it is considered preterm. However, preterm labor does not mean preterm birth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, preterm labor stops on its own in about 3 out of 10 cases.
In the rest of the cases, your doctor can help with treatments to help prevent preterm delivery.
Why Choose Intermountain Health?
Intermountain Health is a dedicated team of doctors and medical specialists who offer comprehensive prenatal and labor care. Our team has the expertise to coordinate the best care and guidance to women during high-risk pregnancy. We are with you during every stage of your journey, from fertility and conception through to post-natal care. Learn more about our women’s health team and how we can support you as you prepare to welcome a new child.