Myth vs. Reality of High-Risk Pregnancy

Occasionally, you may hear about high-risk pregnancy and it can sound intimidating–especially if you’re a new parent or plan to be. Knowing exactly what the term means helps a lot.

If the mother’s circumstances or medical history present the potential for complications for herself, the baby or both during gestation or delivery, that is a high risk pregnancy. The term does not mean there will be difficulties but that the likelihood for them is higher, so mother and baby require special care and attention.

Possible Causes

Some factors that can increase the possibility of high-risk pregnancy are:

  • A pre-existing health problem such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, epilepsy, HIV, hepatitis C, high blood pressure, etc. If you plan to become pregnant or learn that you are, discuss all health problems–past and present–with your obstetrician.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs.
  • Being younger than 17 or older than 35.
  • Carrying more than one fetus at a time.
  • Three or more previous pregnancies that ended in miscarriage.
  • The baby has Down syndrome or another genetic condition.
  • The baby has a major physical problem, like heart, lung or kidney trouble.
  • Previous trouble during pregnancy, such as pre-term labor, pre-eclampsia or eclampsia.

What If…?

If you know or suspect any of these factors, see your physician. If your doctor classifies your pregnancy as high-risk, there are ways to better monitor your progress and safeguard your health and your baby’s–for example, more frequent doctor visits or more tests may be necessary. Your obstetrician may prescribe medications or recommend dietary or lifestyle changes. Finally, your doctor may advise you to deliver your baby at a hospital that offers special care for potentially difficult pregnancies and births.

Free Webinar on High-Risk Pregnancy

If you are planning to get pregnant or know someone who is, get the facts about high-risk pregnancy during the free webinar Am I a High-Risk Mother-to-Be? The live, interactive event happens Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. EST. Maternal/fetal health specialists will offer their insight and address concerns during a question-and-answer session.  Learn more and register at

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