When the health of the mother or the fetus she is carrying or in circumstances where the life of either the mother or the fetus is threatened, the pregnancy is designated as a high-risk pregnancy. Regular and early prenatal care promotes healthy pregnancy in most women leading to delivery with minimal or no complication at all. But, for varying reasons some women are at greater risk of complications even before the commencement of pregnancy.
Risk factors associated with a high-risk pregnancy may include:
- Pre-existing health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, or testing HIV positive.
- Obesity and overweight – In some parts of the globe, particularly the Western nations, a large percentage of pregnant women tend to be obese or overweight. Obesity enhances the risk of preeclampsia, high blood pressure, stillbirth, gestational diabetes, cesarean delivery, neural tube defects etc. Obesity has also been found to improve the possibility of heart problems for the infant by 15% at the time of birth.
- Multiple births – Complications are present in pregnancies that have more than a single fetus, and these could include preterm birth, premature labour, and preeclampsia. Notably, over 50% of all twins and nearly all multiple births (more than two) are born before the 37 weeks gestation.
- Too young or too old – pregnancy at too young age (teens) or somewhat old (35 and above) also increases the risk of gestational high BP and preeclampsia.
- Mothers who use illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco products
- Parents who have experienced multiple miscarriages
- Your baby has been diagnosed to have a genetic problem with the lungs, kidney, heart or a down syndrome.
- Mothers who have experienced problems with past pregnancies
- Use of particular medication for pre-existing conditions
Thus, if your pregnancy falls into any of the above categories, it is more likely that you need special care from a qualified obstetrician to ensure the health of the pregnancy and the ability to carry the infant/s to term.
However, you need not be scared out of your wits because of the usage of the phrase ‘high risk’ with your pregnancy. Do understand that this is a medical term to place your pregnancy on a more cautious note because your doctor/s suspects that you and your baby have an enhanced chance of health issues. Therefore, you also receive particular attention throughout your pregnancy. You will be observed closely to diagnose potential problems and identify problems at an early stage.
How does high-risk pregnancy differ from healthy pregnancy for you?
Typically, you will need more visits to your obstetrician/gynaecologist throughout the pregnancy as compared to other women with the healthy pregnancy. During these visits, your doctor would advise various checks and tests to ensure that your pregnancy is progressing well and that your health, as well as the health of your baby, remains satisfactory. Your doctor may also advise you to choose a hospital with a particular care for high-risk pregnancy instances to deliver the baby. In certain circumstances, you may also need to have the baby before the full term.
Role of an obstetrician in high-risk pregnancy
Most women would see a doctor with additional training in high-risk pregnancy, often an obstetrician or a gynaecologist, or someone who has specialised in both the disciplines. Depending on your condition, your doctor may also want to consult maternal fetal specialists who are also known as perinatologists. If you’re in Melbourne, think to get help from the private obstetricians at royal women’s hospital or, if in Sydney, visit RHW to get a healthy baby.
Precautions that you can take to minimise or eliminate potential problems
It is important to manage your pregnancy. There are several measures that you can adopt to minimise or perhaps even eliminate potential problems during your pregnancy to caring for the health of your baby as well as yourself. These include:
- Ensure that you attend all your doctor visits as per the schedule is given to you. This will help your doctor to advise appropriate tests to ensure that your pregnancy is progressing well and also identify potential problems to address them in time.
- Take care of your diet and ensure that adequate protein, milk products, milk, vegetables and fruits are included. If you feel the need to make changes to your diet, always speak to your doctor.
- Take the prescribed medicines, vitamins, iron, calcium etc. prescribed by your doctor. Never take any drugs without the knowledge of your doctor. If you have any pre-existing conditions for which medicines have been prescribed, discuss that with your doctor.
- Give up smoking at least for the duration of your pregnancy, and till such time it is less harmful to your new born baby. Always remember that smoking can impact your reproductive system in more ways than one. The best for your good is to give up smoking, and your doctor can help you in this regard. During your pregnancy, also avoid passive smoking from others.
- Stay away from alcohol during your pregnancy
- Avoid contact and proximity with people who are suffering from infectious diseases like cold, fever etc.
- Keep track of the movement of your baby every day.
Some of the symptoms you should watch out for
Like other pregnant women, you should regularly watch out for potential signs of problems with your pregnancy. You should keep enjoying your pregnancy and simply develop the ability to spot any symptoms of trouble early on. While there is no need to get scared, getting appropriate help early on, in case of trouble is very important. So here are some of the situations you need to be extra careful.
- Severe vaginal bleeding
- Severe pain in the pelvis or belly fluid leaking or gushing from the Vagina that you think or know caused by umbilical cord bulging into the vaginal region.
- Severe headache
- Sudden swelling of the hands, feet or face
- New problems with your vision like blurring or dimness
- You notice minimal or no movement of the baby
In all these situations, the best option for you is to speak to your doctor immediately and get appropriate medical help without loss of time.