High-Risk Pregnancy

What is a high-risk pregnancy?
Being designated “high risk” means that you and/or your baby have a higher-than-average chance of having a health problem related to your pregnancy.  It does not mean, however, that you or your little one may have long-term complications or other problems. Knowing that you may be at higher risk for complications ensures that you receive the right level of care and treatment throughout your pregnancy.

What makes me and my pregnancy high-risk?
There are a variety of criteria that contribute to a pregnancy being considered high risk.  For instance, women who are younger than 17 and older than 35 are generally considered higher risk than women in their 20’s and early 30’s, as are those who currently smoke, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. If you have previously been pregnant, problems with past pregnancies may likewise place you at higher risk. These include:

  • Preterm labor
  • Multiple (3 or more) miscarriages
  • Preeclampsia (toxemia)
  • Having a child who was diagnosed with genetic problems
  • Problems with the placenta, including placental insufficiency or placenta abruption

Certain medical conditions are frequently associated with complications during pregnancy. These include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or epilepsy.

If you are carrying multiples, or if the child you are carrying has been diagnosed in utero with a health problem, such as Down syndrome, anencephaly, hydrocephalus, a diaphragmatic hernia, heart condition or kidney disorder,  your pregnancy may also be deemed high risk.

What type of doctor will I see for a high-risk pregnancy?
If your OB/GYN, family practitioner or nurse midwife determines that your pregnancy is high risk, he or she may refer you to a perinatologist (maternal-fetal medicine physician).  These physicians have extensive training in working with high-risk pregnancies. They may become your primary physician throughout your pregnancy, or may consult with your physician as needed.