What is a High Risk Pregnancy?

Team Peanut5 months ago5 min read

Finding out you’re pregnant may be an incredibly exciting moment in your life, but there are times when seeing those two lines might also fill you with apprehension. And this may especially be the case if you’re concerned about having a high risk pregnancy.

High Risk Pregnancy

A pregnancy is considered high risk when the health of the baby or mama-to-be is threatened because of various factors. In this blog post, we’ll explain more.

In this article: 📝

  • How do you know if you have a high risk pregnancy?
  • What about things that happen in pregnancy that make it high risk?
  • What happens when you are considered a high risk pregnancy?
  • Do I get extra support if my pregnancy is high risk?

How do you know if you have a high risk pregnancy?

One of the first things that will be recorded on your medical file is your age, because pregnant women under 17 or over 35 are considered high risk pregnancy age groups.

But there are many other factors that medical professionals take into account when advising if your pregnancy is high risk or not.

What makes a pregnancy high risk?

When you go for your first antenatal appointment, you’ll be asked questions about your medical history. This helps the professionals assess your situation and give you the appropriate advice.

Things that they like to be aware of include:

  • Having a heart condition or any blood disorders
  • Any health conditions like diabetes, kidney diseases, epilepsy, high blood pressure, asthma, and obesity
  • Any lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs
  • A family history of genetic conditions
  • A history of complicated pregnancies, including any miscarriages, preterm labor, C-section or complex delivery or having a child with a birth defect

What about things that happen in pregnancy that make it high risk?

Sometimes, the amazing work our bodies are doing is complicated by factors beyond our control. Various issues can arise during your pregnancy which can pose risks, and are separate to the mama’s health, such as:

  • If you are pregnant with twins or multiple babies
  • If there are problems with the structure of the uterus or a shortened cervix then mama’s can be at a higher risk of premature labor
  • If the placenta has settled into an unusual position over the cervix, it is called placenta previa and can cause bleeding during the pregnancy
  • Rh sensitization – which is when your blood group is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive
  • Slow growth of the baby or other concerns which can be found during an ultrasound or in other tests
  • Preeclampsia – high blood pressure can be an indicator and can be dangerous if untreated
  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It can be managed by your healthcare provider, and usually resolves itself after delivery

What happens when you are considered a high risk pregnancy?

If you’re advised that you’re carrying a high risk pregnancy, you and your doctor will probably create a prenatal care plan together that focuses on keeping you and your baby safe.

This plan may include following some of these high risk pregnancy requirements:
Additional prenatal appointments, tests or ultrasounds

  • An appointment with a genetic counsellor or a physician who specializes in high risk pregnancies
  • A plan for a healthy diet and a safe exercise routine
  • A plan to stop smoking, drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs
  • And, if absolutely necessary, then complete bed rest at home or in a hospital

You may also be advised to be aware of specific symptoms, like bleeding or pain – and you should always call your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

Do I get extra support if my pregnancy is high risk?

You might be wondering if you get extra appointments, or ask how many ultrasounds do you get in a high risk pregnancy? What your practitioner offers you will vary, depending on your circumstances, and which specific high risk factors they’re supporting.

With this in mind, you might be recommended:

  • Specialized ultrasound, where pictures of the baby in the uterus can be taken and targeted at suspected problems, such as low fetal growth.

  • Biophysical ultrasound, where the baby’s well-being is monitored, including fetal heart rate monitoring (also known as a “nonstress test”).

  • Ultrasound for cervical length, which can be used to assess your risk for preterm labor.

  • Lab tests, where your urine can be tested for urinary tract infections and you can be screened for infectious diseases such as HIV and syphilis.

  • Prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening, where a blood sample is taken from the mama, and the baby’s DNA is screened for specific chromosome problems.

  • Invasive genetic screening. These tests are called Amniocentesis or Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS). During Amniocentesis, a sample of the amniotic fluid that protects your baby during pregnancy is taken from the uterus. During CVS, a sample of cells is removed from the placenta. Your healthcare provider can give you much more detailed info about these tests, because they do carry risk.

Going through a high risk pregnancy can be stressful, worrying, and scary. Please don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider about any questions that are bugging you. And the Peanut community is always here to offer support, where you can meet, chat, and learn from like-minded women.