Factors Leading to High-Risk Pregnancies: When to See an Expert in Maternal Fetal Medicine

Pregnancy alone can be a nerve-racking yet beautiful experience all at once. For many women, the pregnancy can be normal and low-risk, requiring only typical monitoring by an obstetrician. But there are some pregnancies that are high-risk and, as a result, require a higher level of care form maternal fetal medicine specialists dedicated to high-risk pregnancies. There are many factors that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy and the services our specialists can provide for you to make you and your growing baby safe. Some factors that can contribute to a high-risk pregnancy are:

  • Advanced maternal age – Pregnancy risks increase for mothers who are 35 years and older.

  • Obesity – Patients with a BMI of 30 or more have an increased risk of medical problems in pregnancy such as preeclampsia, hypertension, and diabetes. However, unknown to most women is the increased risk of fetal abnormalities present in the offspring of obese women. It is recommended that women with obesity get advanced level ultrasound only usually present in maternal-fetal medicine offices.

  • Medical conditions that exist before pregnancy (underlying conditions) –Conditions like high blood pressure, kidney or heart problems, epilepsy, diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases and sexually transmitted diseases can present risks to the mother and/or the unborn baby.

  • Medical conditions that occur during pregnancy – Even if you were healthy prior to your pregnancy, certain conditions that can develop during pregnancy — like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes — can put your pregnancy at higher risk. These diagnoses often need expert assistance.

  • Drug and alcohol use – Dangerous to you and your baby, smoking, consuming alcohol or using illegal drugs will make a pregnancy have more risk. For example, smoking increases the risk of stillbirth by 50% while doubling the risk of ADHD and motor skills abnormalities in children.

  • Medical history – Previous pregnancies that have resulted low birth weight, preterm birth (before 37 weeks), or a personal or family history of miscarriage can classify a pregnancy as high-risk.

  • Pregnancy complications/Pregnancy related issues – Certain complications — such as problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta — that develop during pregnancy can pose risks. Other conditions that can cause concern are too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), not enough amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), restricted fetal growth or Rh (rhesus) sensitization.

  • Multiple pregnancy – Although people think multiple gestations are more cute or get everything over with at once, this underestimates the inherent risks of these high risk pregnancies. Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher-order multiples (triplets, quadruplets, etc.) and present increased risk of preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.

  • IVF pregnancy – IVF pregnancies have an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. However, they also have an increased risk of preeclampsia and fetal abnormalities such as congenital heart disease. Close follow up an some additions of medication may help in these pregnancies.

Warning signs to watch for

In addition, expectant mothers should keep an eye out for certain warning signs that their pregnancy may be in danger. If you see any of the following signs, contact your physician immediately.

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Frequent headaches

  • Decreased fetal activity

  • Regular contractions

  • Pain or cramping in the lower abdomen

  • Watery vaginal discharge

  • Pain or burning when urinating

  • Changes in vision

Steps to promote a healthy pregnancy

There are many things you can do for you and your baby both prior to and during your pregnancy. Making the right choices during your pregnancy and taking the right precautions prior to conceiving can help to have a successful, healthy pregnancy. Some things you can do include:

  • Schedule a preconception appointment

  • Try to enter pregnancy at an ideal weight.

  • Seek regular prenatal care

  • Consume a healthy, balanced diet

  • Gain the recommended amount of weight during your pregnancy

  • Avoid damaging substances

  • Ease anxiety and stress

For more information on high-risk pregnancy and how the experienced physicians at High Risk Pregnancy Center can help to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy for you and your baby, call (702) 382-3200 today to schedule an appointment.