A pregnancy is known as a high-risk pregnancy if the mother, the baby or both have a higher chance of a health problem. There are many factors that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy. However, this does not mean that every high-risk pregnancy will be a danger to the mother or baby. Doctors make sure that a patient who may run the risk of a high-risk pregnancy gets special attention and if required engages a team of specialists to manage the condition.
Let us look at some factors that make a pregnancy a high risk one:
If the age of the mother is less than seventeen or more than thirty-five, then the pregnancy is considered a high-risk one. In a younger woman, the body is not yet ready to bear children and there is an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, preterm labour, anaemia. Younger women may also have babies that are underweight or anaemic.
In older women the risk of conceiving a baby with chromosomal abnormality increases with increase in the age of the mother. There could also be complications during labour, such as difficult labour, a placenta that detaches too soon (placental abruption) or is mislocated (placenta previa).
Women who are underweight with a body mass index of less than 19.8 are more likely to have small underweight babies. Overweight women, with a body mass index of 29 or more are likely to have large babies which can be difficult to deliver. Overweight women are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.
Women whose cervix or uterus have abnormalities, such as a double uterus, scar tissue in the uterus or an incompetent cervix run the risk of having a difficult labour, miscarriage or the foetus could be in an abnormal position, necessitating a caesarean delivery.
Pre-existing Health Conditions
Women who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease etc. are all likely to have high-risk pregnancies which would necessitate management of their pregnancies by experts.
Drinking alcohol and smoking of cigarettes both before and during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirths or preterm births. Thus, it is advisable to stop smoking and drinking right from the time the planning for a baby begins.
Disorders during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a problem may occur or a condition may develop to make the pregnancy high risk. For example, pregnant women may be exposed to something that can cause birth defects such as radiation, certain chemicals, drugs or infections. Infections that are particularly dangerous during pregnancy include chickenpox, hepatitis, herpes simplex, rubella (German measles), syphilis and toxoplasmosis.
Sometimes a fertilized egg, instead of travelling down to the uterus implants in the tissues outside the uterus, in the fallopian tubes. This is a very dangerous condition. Such pregnancies are unviable and must be ended as soon as possible. Usually, the foetus and the placenta are removed surgically.