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What Is a High Risk Pregnancy? How Do You Manage It?

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 04, 2022

What Is a High Risk Pregnancy? How Do You Manage It?

They say the early stages of pregnancy are very critical, and that mothers need to be extra careful in anything and everything that they do. Your body undergoes several changes during this point, alongside the development of the baby’s structure and organ systems. When things go differently, it may result in miscarriages or birth defects. This brings us to the question – what is a high risk pregnancy? What can you do to go about it?

Being pregnant brings a different kind of joy and excitement. But, things may change the moment you find out about how stakes are high for you. From being happy and excited, it may leave you anxious, afraid, but mostly questioning. 

What Is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy refers to the situation in which either the mother’s or the fetus’ life is threatened and at stake. 

These risks may be the result of pregnancy-related factors, such as a problem with the fetus or the placenta. It can also be due to preexisting maternal medical conditions like that of the following:

Pregnancy-related events, such as preterm labor or preeclampsia, may also result in high-risk status. 

About 6-8% of pregnancy cases end up with high-risk complications. 

What Is a High-Risk Pregnancy and What Are the Risk Factors for It?

People often ask what is a high-risk pregnancy. There are several factors that can cause it. This includes:

  • Maternal age. Both younger (17 and below) and older (35 and above) mothers can be at a higher risk of pregnancy. 
  • Lifestyle choices. How a mother lives her life will always come into play even in terms of her pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, and using illegal drugs can all adversely impact her health, as well as the baby’s.
  • Overweight and obesity. Obesity increases the chances of developing different diseases such as hypertension, gestational diabetes,  preeclampsia, stillbirth, cesarean delivery, and neural tube defects. According to NICHD researchers, it can increase infants’ risk of heart problems at birth by 15%.
  • Pre-existing health conditions. Some women may have some health conditions prior to getting pregnant. Kidney disease, heart disease, rheumatologic disease (lupus), autoimmune diseases, thyroid disease, and psychiatric conditions can all cause complications during pregnancy. Infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and Zika virus infection can also result in a high-risk pregnancy.

There are also those health conditions specific to pregnancy that can heighten the risks:

  • Gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs in a woman who has never had diabetes before it develops during her pregnancy. 
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia. Preeclampsia takes place when blood pressure rises after the 20th week of gestation. Seizures or coma are possible outcomes of the more severe eclampsia.
  • Multiple pregnancies. Women carrying twins or more in one go may face greater pregnancy risks.
  • Previous preterm delivery. A woman may be deemed at high risk if she had a previous premature birth. This is because there is a higher chance of having another preterm delivery in each pregnancy.
  • Recurrent pregnancy loss. Both mother and baby may be at stake when the mother has already experienced three or more consecutive miscarriages.  The chance of carrying a baby to term or even surpassing the first trimester becomes challenging.

What Is a High-Risk Pregnancy and What Can You Do to Manage It?

Frequent visits to the doctor can help monitor you and your baby. It is your doctor who will tell you the next steps you need to do and to avoid in order to have a healthy delivery. But, you can also do these common healthy measures to help you manage it:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Follow your doctor’s activity recommendations. Your doctor will tell you whether or not you can work and exercise.
  • Take the vitamins or supplements your doctor prescribes (i.e., folic acid or vitamin B). This will help raise your immunity or reduce further complications that may take place. 
  • Stop smoking and drinking.

Finally, make an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. This doctor specializes in high-risk pregnancy cases and can help you better navigate your condition. Specialized treatment and care can put you on the path to a healthier and less dangerous pregnancy.

Key Takeaways

No mother would want to put herself, more so her child, at risk. It is not your fault that you are having a high-risk pregnancy. Some pregnancies become more high risk as they progress, while others are predisposed to complications for a variety of reasons even before they become pregnant.

What you can do about it is to ensure that you have early and consistent prenatal care. These enable you to manage your pregnancy well and be able to deliver a child healthily and free of complications. 

Learn more about being pregnant here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 04, 2022

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