A high-risk pregnancy is a one with health complications that can affect the life or health of the baby and the mother. Fortunately, most pregnancies are without serious health complications. But even though only about 6-8% of pregnancies are considered high risk, those pregnancies can have serious adverse outcomes.
The best time to start thinking about reducing your risk for a high-risk pregnancy is before you get pregnant. The first step is to get as healthy as you can, including maintaining a healthy body weight and taking prenatal vitamins. At the Center for Women’s Health, we want to help you avoid a problem pregnancy.
What are risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy?
Some pregnancies start as high risk, and some develop into high risk as the pregnancy gets further along. Several factors put you at a higher probability of having a high-risk pregnancy. Some of factors you can’t control, while you can take steps to prevent or manage others. These factors include:
- Having a baby before age 17 or after age 35
- Using drugs or smoking cigarettes
- Having a pre-existing medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure
- Having had previous abdominal surgeries
- Having had a previous high-risk pregnancy
- Carrying multiple babies
Five steps to manage your risk for a high-risk pregnancy
While you can’t change your age or the fact that you had a previous high-risk pregnancy, you can make healthy lifestyle changes to increase your chances of having a healthy, complication-free pregnancy and delivery. Here are steps you can take to decrease your risk for a high-risk pregnancy:
Make a preconception appointment
Meet with your OB/GYN before you start trying to have a baby. Your doctor can get you started on healthy habits like taking folic acid and advising you if you need to lose weight. You can also discuss other health conditions and medications you’re on that may need to be adjusted while you try to get pregnant and during your pregnancy.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
If you smoke, now’s the time to quit. If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol or take drugs, you should quit those, too. Smoking, taking drugs, and drinking alcohol can put you and your baby at risk.
If you need help quitting these unhealthy habits, find a support program before you get pregnant. Drugs and other unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy can result in:
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight
- Newborn with a drug dependency
Take precautions if you’ve had previous high-risk pregnancies
If you’ve had previous pregnancy complications such as preterm labor or preeclampsia, there are precautions you can take. Speak to your doctor about your medical history. Your doctor may recommend taking progesterone to reduce your risk of spontaneous preterm labor or aspirin to help prevent a recurrence of preeclampsia.
Get preexisting conditions under control
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or other health condition, get these conditions under control before and during your pregnancy. If you have diabetes, for example, be diligent about managing your blood sugar level.
Eating a healthy diet, maintaining or losing weight, and regular exercise can help you control issues like blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, all of which can affect your pregnancy.
Get regular prenatal care
If you see your OB/GYN for regularly scheduled prenatal visits, your doctor can monitor your pregnancy and any associated risks to make sure you and your baby are in good health. You also can get prenatal tests such as ultrasound and amniocentesis to monitor the health and growth of your baby further. If necessary, your doctor can refer you to a specialist.
For more information on steps you can take to have a healthy, complication-free pregnancy and delivery, call the Center for Women’s Health in Wichita, Kansas, or make an appointment online.