There are situations when a pregnancy may be termed as high risk. While it may sound like a situation that can be difficult, there are various ways in which you can still have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Read on to learn what it means by a high risk pregnancy and what sort of precautions you should follow if your doctor terms your pregnancy as high risk.
What Is A High Risk Pregnancy?
Having a baby is more or less a natural process, in which case you go through the full term of your pregnancy and enter labor as you reach the delivery date. Once your labor contractions begin, your baby is born within the next few hours or so. Sometimes, though, pregnancy is considered a high-risk pregnancy and the above course may not be the one that will be followed.
A pregnancy is termed as a high-risk one by the doctor when he is worried that there is a high possibility of complications arising in the pregnancy. The complications relate to the health of the mother, to the health of the unborn baby or the health of both. Once a woman is categorized as having a high-risk pregnancy, she is placed under constant medical observation so that the mother and the baby can be given all the required medical assistance as and when needed.
What Can Turn A Regular Pregnancy Into A High Risk Pregnancy?
Here are a few reasons for high risk pregnancy that can make your doctor term your pregnancy as a high-risk one:
1. Your Age:
The age at which you become pregnant is one of the biggest factors that can turn a regular and otherwise healthy pregnancy into a high-risk pregnancy.
If you are less than 17 years of age when you conceive or are over 35 years of age when you are due to deliver your baby, you will automatically be placed under a high-risk pregnancy watch.
Once you cross 40 years of age and conceive or are due to give birth, there is a higher risk of miscarriage.
The risk of genetic defects also becomes higher if you are due to deliver or conceive after you have crossed 40 years of age.
2. Medical Conditions That You Already Have:
There are various medical conditions that can immediately put your pregnancy at the risk of being a high-risk pregnancy. You may either have had these conditions at the time you conceived or pick them up after you became pregnant. In either way, the medical conditions can have an impact on your overall pregnancy and be a cause of concern for your as well as your unborn baby’s health.
Some medical conditions that can put your pregnancy at a high-risk threat are conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney problems, heart diseases, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), autoimmune diseases, or infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). All these medical conditions can pose a health risk for both the mother and the unborn baby.
If you have had a miscarriage earlier in any previous pregnancy or have a family history in which case there have been miscarriages or genetic birth defects, the doctor will also put your pregnancy at a high-risk condition.
When you are trying to conceive or if you find out that you are pregnant, it is very important to consult with your doctor and find out what medical conditions you may have or are at a high risk of. Your doctor will be able to take necessary precautions right from the start and will be able to bring down the chances of high-risk pregnancies.
Some Medical Conditions That May Develop During Pregnancy And Cause High Risk Pregnancy:
Of course it is possible that you were in the best of health when you conceived but once you got pregnant, certain medical conditions came up. While some or the other minor infection or health issue does crop up while you are pregnant, and it is perfectly normal, some can be a little serious. There are a few medical conditions that you can get affected with during your pregnancy. In such a case, it is important to get in touch with your doctor immediately and understand what course of treatment and care you should take. Here are a few medical conditions that can put your pregnancy at high risk:
It is a condition that usually causes a huge increase in the blood pressure levels, can lead to high traces of protein in the urine and can also result in swelling. Preeclampsia is a very serious condition that can also reach to life-threatening proportions and cause extreme risk to both the mother and the unborn baby. However, once you start getting the right treatment and care, it is possible that your condition of preeclampsia will be treated, and there will be no risk to either your unborn baby or you.
2. Gestational Diabetes:
As the name suggests, gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that develops when you are pregnant. Even though it is also a serious health condition, if you get the right treatment and care on time and follow your doctor’s advice, it is possible to minimize the risk. With the right care, you can have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby even if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. In most cases, gestational diabetes will be there only until the time you are pregnant and will resolve once you deliver your baby. However, there is always a possibility that if you did develop gestational diabetes while you were pregnant, you might most likely develop type 2 diabetes after you have had the baby.
3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS):
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which it gets difficult for a woman to get pregnant, and when she does, it can become difficult for the pregnancy to continue until full term. Women who have PCOS while they conceive or while they are pregnant are always at a higher risk of suffering a miscarriage. In most cases, the miscarriage happens before the 20th week of pregnancy. Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome while they are pregnant are also at a higher risk of getting affected with preeclampsia, diabetes and getting into premature labor.
4. Autoimmune Disease:
Autoimmune diseases contain a group of various other diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. Some of the autoimmune diseases can also significantly increase the risk of new problems arising later during the pregnancy. For instance, if you suffer from lupus, it can increase your chances of getting into premature labor as well as increase the risk of having a stillbirth. In some cases, however, a woman who had some or the other autoimmune disease before she got pregnant may notice some improvement in the condition once she becomes pregnant. However, in many other cases, women who did have some or the other autoimmune disease before they got pregnant will notice an increase in the symptoms and conditions associated with the same once they are pregnant. It is also difficult to treat the autoimmune diseases while you are pregnant, as the medications required to treat can often cause harm to the unborn baby.
5. Kidney Problems:
If a woman has a kidney problem, it can create a lot of difficulty in getting pregnant and keeping the pregnancy safe till full term. In most cases, women who have kidney issues while they are pregnant or when they conceived may often go through a miscarriage. A woman who has any kidney problem while she is pregnant will require a lot of additional treatments along with a change of her diet and medication plan. In such cases, the pregnant woman will have to visit the doctor regularly for checkups and tests through which the doctor will monitor the condition of the problem as well as the health of the unborn baby and the mother.
Obesity is another medical condition that can often cause various complications in your pregnancy and make it come under the high risk pregnancy criteria. If you are obese when you conceive or after you become pregnant, it can significantly increase your risk of getting diabetes, which can further lead to more complications related to birth.
7. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Or AIDS:
If you have HIV or AIDS while you conceive or when you are pregnant, it can end up damaging the many cells of your immune system. As a result, your body will not be able to fight off infections and diseases and will be at a high risk of contracting various diseases while you are pregnant. In addition to certain infections and medical conditions, it will also put you at a higher risk of getting some or the other type of cancer. At such a stage, you will also be at a higher risk of passing on the infection to your unborn baby, which can further complicate things. In many cases, the infection can be passed on to the baby later after birth as well, while you are in labor, while you are giving birth, or later, during breastfeeding. There are various treatments available that can prevent your HIV condition from spreading to your unborn baby or even after birth. In some cases, pregnant women who have a very low amount of viral load may even be allowed to go in for a vaginal birth, without the risk of passing on the infection to the baby. A viral load is the amount of active HIV that is present in the blood. Those women who have a higher amount of viral load are taken in for a cesarean birth so that there is less risk of the baby getting infected during or after birth.
If you were battling with infertility issues earlier, it may be possible that you had to take some specific treatment and fertility drugs in order to get pregnant. In many cases, women who do take fertility drugs to get pregnant have a higher chance of getting complications while they are pregnant, as compared to those who did not take any fertility drugs. The most common complications that can arise in such cases are related to the placenta, which links you to your unborn baby, as well as excessive bleeding through the vagina.
Various thyroid diseases that are beyond their regulated levels, such as an overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid, can also cause various complications during the pregnancy. The thyroid is a small gland that is located in your neck and helps to produce various hormones that keep your heart rate and blood pressure in control. In case of thyroid issues while you are pregnant, it can lead to other complications such as birth defects, problems in the heart as well as poor weight gain for the unborn baby.
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Other Reasons That Can Lead To A High Risk Pregnancy:
While there are various medical conditions that can turn your pregnancy into a high-risk pregnancy, sometimes there are other conditions too that can increase your risk. Here are a few more high risk pregnancy factors:
1. Premature Labor:
If your labor begins before you are in the 37th week of your pregnancy, it is termed as premature labor. While your doctor will not be able to certainly tell you whether or not you will get into premature labor, there are various factors that can increase your chances of an early labor. If you have had a preterm labor birth before, or have some specific type of infection while you are pregnant or if your cervix is shorter than it should be, you can be at a higher risk of a premature labor. As a result, your pregnancy will be termed a high risk pregnancy.
2. Carrying Multiple Babies:
If you are carrying more than one baby while you are pregnant, where you are pregnant with twins, triplets or more, your pregnancy will also be termed as a high risk pregnancy. A multiple pregnancy is more common when you have taken infertility treatments earlier. It can also put you at a higher risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes as well as premature labor.
3. Problems With The Fetus:
Sometimes, an unborn baby, or the fetus, may have certain problems that can be visible while carrying out an ultrasound test. Almost two to three percent of pregnancies have a situation where the fetus has some or the other developmental problem. In some cases, it happens when there is a family history of problems related to unborn babies. In other cases, the same could happen without any earlier history as well.
4. Placenta Previa:
Placenta previa is the condition in which your placenta ends up covering your cervix. In such a situation, you are likely to experience a lot of bleeding, especially if you have already started having your labor contractions. If your placenta still covers the cervix while you are nearing your date of delivery, your doctor may choose to go for a cesarean delivery so that there is lesser bleeding involved at the time of birth. It will also help to reduce any further risks to you or your unborn baby.
How Will Your Doctor Check You If You Have A High Risk Pregnancy?
If your doctor suspects that you have a high-risk pregnancy, they will change your regular checkup schedule and plan something that will give you more easy access to checkups and treatment. Here are a few things your doctor may recommend:
You will have to go in for a higher number of checkups with your doctor as compared to a woman who does not have a high-risk pregnancy.
Your doctor will schedule you for more ultrasound tests to keep checking that your baby is doing well and is comfortable and developing healthily.
Your doctor will also schedule you for regular blood pressure checks to make sure that your levels are under control.
You will also have to go through a lot of urine tests so that your doctor can check the level of protein in your urine, as it can point towards preeclampsia or even a urinary tract infection.
If you are above 35 years of age or have a family medical history of genetic issues, your doctor will also schedule you for genetic testing. In case you had any issues of genetic problems in an earlier pregnancy, your doctor will also schedule you for the same again.
If you are suffering from any medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor will put you on medication and treatment plans that will help to keep the conditions under control and not affect your unborn baby.
In case, your doctor feels that your health can affect your unborn baby, and there is a possible risk, you may be taken in for an earlier delivery than your normal due date.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk Of Having A High Risk Pregnancy?
Once you become pregnant or are planning to have a baby, it is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle and make the best choices to make sure that both you and your baby remain healthy and safe. Sometimes, you cannot do anything to prevent your chances of having a high risk pregnancy. However, in some cases, you can follow a few tips that can reduce your chances of having a high risk pregnancy. Here are a few things you can keep in mind to make sure that both you as well as your unborn baby remain healthy and safe:
Always have a healthy and well-balanced meal that includes lots protein, milk and other dairy products, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Keep a record of all the appointments that your doctor has asked you to come for and make sure you do not miss any doctor checkups. All your appointments with the doctor are very important as they will help your doctor to keep a track of how you and your unborn baby are doing. It will also give your doctor the chance to immediately spot if something is wrong with either of you and take immediate steps to rectify the same.
Make sure that you regularly take all the medicines that your doctor has prescribed and do not miss taking any. Take all your iron and vitamin supplements that your doctor has asked you to but do not take anything on your own, unless your doctor has asked you to.
Your doctor will set you on a routine of taking folic acid supplements so make sure you do take those regularly. Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that will help to reduce the chances of any birth defects or neural tube defects in your unborn baby. A neural tube defect is a type of birth defect that affects the spinal cord, brain or spine of the unborn baby.
Speak to your doctor about how much activity you should do and what types of activity you should stay away from. If your doctor asks you to go ahead with a particular type of exercise, make sure you do it but stop the moment you feel uncomfortable or feel any pain. Speak to your doctor about it and see what you should do.
If you are planning to get pregnant, make sure you stop smoking and consuming alcohol even before you start to try. Also, stay away from places where you know that people will be smoking, as passive smoking can also be equally harmful to your pregnancy.
Your pregnancy is a time when you have to be extra careful to make sure that both you and your baby are health. Follow your doctor’s advice and speak to him the moment you feel any discomfort.
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