A high-risk pregnancy is a pregnancy where you or your baby may be at risk of complications before, during or after delivery. Some pregnancies become high-risk as they progress, while others are considered high-risk before the woman even becomes pregnant due to health issues.
If you have been diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy, you may feel overwhelmed or anxious. High-risk pregnancies often involve more testing, doctor’s appointments and interventions than other pregnancies — all of which can cause concern about your well-being and the well-being of your baby.
Fortunately, doctors today are well versed in supporting women throughout their high-risk pregnancies. Read on to learn more about what to expect and how maternal-fetal specialists like the ones at Fetal Care Center Dallas can help you and your baby have positive outcomes.
Risk Factors for a High-Risk Pregnancy
No one specific factor guarantees that you will experience a high-risk pregnancy, but an individual factor can mean your doctor will want to monitor you and your baby more closely throughout your pregnancy. Some risk factors include:
- Existing health conditions: Diabetes, hypertension and other health conditions can increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
- Multiple pregnancies: Women who are carrying more than one fetus are at higher risk of gestational diabetes and preterm birth. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than half of all twins and 93% of triplets are born at less than 37 weeks’ gestation.
- Maternal age: Teenage mothers and mothers over age 35 are at increased risk of preeclampsia and high blood pressure while pregnant.
- Pregnancy complications: Pregnancies can become high-risk due to issues like fetal growth, abnormal placental position or fetal heart problems.
- Pregnancy history: If you have had complications or high-risk pregnancies in the past, you might be more susceptible to another one.
What to Expect: Pregnancy
If you or your doctor are concerned that you may have a high-risk pregnancy, the first step is to make a preconception appointment. Your doctor will go over your past pregnancies, health issues and medical history. You will receive advice on how to support a healthy pregnancy — such as taking a prenatal vitamin or quitting smoking — and next steps will be decided.
Once you have become pregnant, you may be required to have more doctor’s exams than someone with a typical pregnancy so your doctor can more closely monitor your baby’s progress. Diagnostic testing can help create a clearer picture of your baby’s future needs and any interventions that may be needed. A genetic counselor can also help determine whether your baby should be tested for any specific illnesses.
You may require other exams to make sure your baby is developing well. These can include:
- Specialized or targeted ultrasound: An ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a fetus. Your doctor might order targeted ultrasounds to monitor specific aspects of your baby’s growth. These ultrasounds can also be used to monitor placental position.
- Fetal echocardiogram: Diagnosing heart issues before birth is crucial to ensure that your baby is getting the right treatment as quickly as possible. A fetal echocardiogram will give a fetal cardiologist the clearest possible picture of your baby’s developing heart.
- Amniocentesis: If there is any concern about a genetic illness or neural tube defect, your doctor may recommend an amniocentesis. In this procedure, a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken from the uterus for testing.
- Open fetal surgery: In some cases, such as spina bifida, operating on the baby while they are still in the womb can ensure the best possible outcome once they’re born.
While these tests and procedures can feel overwhelming or frightening, it’s important to remember that they all serve one purpose: supporting you and your baby to ensure the healthiest delivery possible.
What to Expect: Delivery
When you are ready to deliver your baby, a high-risk pregnancy may mean that your experience will be different from that of someone having a vaginal delivery. Some complications, including preeclampsia or multiple babies, require a planned C-section.
While many people are worried about undergoing a C-section, it is a routine and safe procedure that has positive outcomes for both mother and baby. If you’re still feeling concerned, talk to your doctor so he or she can help you prepare.
What to Expect: Postnatal Care
Depending on the nature of your high-risk pregnancy, further monitoring may be needed once you and your baby are home together. Your doctor will help you schedule any required follow-ups to make sure that you both are doing well.
If you are home and begin to feel depressed, anxious, isolated or paranoid, it’s important to reach out to your doctor immediately. Becoming a parent is an immense and life-changing event, and it can be even harder to adjust to when handling long-term medical issues that you or your baby may experience after pregnancy.
Reach out to us today to book your appointment.