What is a High-risk Pregnancy?

From pre-existing medical conditions to maternal age, we take a look at some of the factors that might make a pregnancy high risk


 

Many women who are told that they have a high-risk pregnancy find that label rather scary. They assume it means they and their babies are very likely to have complications or problems. In fact, that term simply means that they are at higher-than-average risk of problems. A normal pregnancy is very low in terms of risk, so even if you’ve been told you are high risk, the odds are generally in your favour.

For example, women over 35 are considered to be high-risk in terms of having a baby with Down syndrome. The actual risk is 1 out of 365 pregnancies. Yes, this is certainly higher than it is for a 25-year-old mother (her risk is just 1 out of 1300 pregnancies), however, the vast majority of these “older” mothers will not have babies with Down Syndrome.

What are some of the factors besides age that might make a pregnancy high risk?

  • Pre-existing medical conditions. Many conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) can affect or be affected by pregnancy and require additional monitoring throughout the process.  
  • Medical conditions that develop during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes can also increase concerns.
  • A history of problems with earlier pregnancies and births (previous premature births or repeated miscarriages, etc.)
  • Complications of pregnancy (twins, triplets or higher multiples, placenta previa, etc.)

 

If you’ve been told that your pregnancy is high-risk, you may need to have extra visits to the doctor, additional testing, and may need to see a specialist as well. It can feel stressful, but do keep in mind that with appropriate monitoring, the majority of high-risk pregnancies end up with healthy babies and healthy mothers.

 

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