image bio

Today only: Get 20% off Breastfeeding Essentials with code FLASH3. Shop now ➔

Home > Learn > FYI > >What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

Nov 30, 20 5 min
What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

High-risk complications occur in six to eight percent of all pregnancies, but many more are deemed high-risk because of underlying risk factors. This guide walks through the causes of a high-risk pregnancy and what to do if your doctor has told you your pregnancy is high risk. 


By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Doctors use the term “high-risk pregnancy” to describe a situation in which a mother, her fetus, or both are at higher risk for problems during pregnancy or delivery due to a known risk factor. This label is used to help the care team ensure a pregnant woman receives special monitoring and care. If your doctor tells you that your pregnancy is “high risk,” it doesn’t necessarily mean your pregnancy will have complications. In fact, most high-risk pregnancies go on to have uncomplicated births and healthy babies. 

What causes a high-risk pregnancy?

There is no exact definition of risk in pregnancy, as risk may be perceived in different ways by doctors and patients. But generally, there are a lot of factors that can make a pregnancy higher-risk, including (but not limited to):

  • Age: under 17 years old or over 35 years old
  • Weight: being underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant
  • Multiples: twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • Existing health conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, PCOS, kidney disease, thyroid disease, HIV/AIDS, or other auto-immune disease, asthma
  • Pregnancy conditions: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, placental abnormalities, abnormal fetal growth
  • Previous complication: premature labor or having a child with a genetic problem or birth defect, or prior cesarean section
  • Lifestyle factors: alcohol, drug, or tobacco use

Why is age (35+) considered a high-risk pregnancy?  

More women are having their first child when they are over the age of 35. And most of these first-time mothers over 35 have normal pregnancies! But research shows that women over 35 are at higher risk for certain complications than younger women. For example, they are more likely to undergo Caesarean delivery (c-section) than are younger women, and more likely to develop diabetes and elevated blood pressure in pregnancy. 

If I have one high-risk pregnancy, will future pregnancies also be high risk?

Not necessarily. Obviously, you can’t reverse a risk factor like being over 35. Or, if you have had a pregnancy that ended in preterm delivery, you are at greater risk of having preterm labor during your next pregnancy, so subsequent pregnancies would be considered high risk. But if you are high risk from a non-recurring factor such as having twins, and your next birth is a singleton, it will not necessarily be high risk. Furthermore, your existing health conditions may change over time. 

🛍️ Shop Pregnancy Products ⟶

So what happens if my doctor says I am high-risk?

It all depends! Sometimes, women who have a high-risk pregnancy will see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and undergo more monitoring than someone with a low-risk pregnancy. Some common reasons for referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist before delivery include preterm labor, preeclampsia, vaginal bleeding, or any major health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

What should I do if I have a high-risk pregnancy?

Continue to take care of your mind and body. We recommend the following:

  1. Make sure you’re taking a prenatal vitamin with the recommended nutrients. ACOG recommends you get enough folate, calcium, iron, and choline. Our Prenatal for her meets these guidelines.
  2. Rethink your birth plan, or make one if you haven’t yet.  
  3. Ask your doctor lots of questions. Remember, there are no dumb questions. Your doctor is there to help guide you throughout. (We outline questions you can ask him or her below). 
  4. Try yoga. A randomized study of yoga in high-risk pregnancy showed that yoga can potentially be an effective therapy in reducing hypertensive related complications of pregnancy and improving fetal outcomes.

Questions to ask your doctor 

If your doctor has told you that your pregnancy is high risk, you may have some fears or concerns. The best next step would be to educate yourself on the situation, and take steps to ensure the health of you and your baby. Some questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What factor(s) make this pregnancy high-risk?
  • Will I need to see a specialist? 
  • If I have to see a specialist, how will the two of you coordinate my care?
  • Should I change my birth plan?
  • What can I do to lower my risk of complications?
  • What symptoms or signs should I look out for? Which ones mean I should seek emergency care? 
  • Is it okay for me to have sex?

Should I tell my work I have a high risk pregnancy?

It’s hard to hide a pregnancy from coworkers, but you don’t necessarily have to tell them details of your pregnancy. It is important to know that no matter what, you are protected from pregnancy discrimination. By law, employers may not fire, refuse to promote, or otherwise retaliate against an employee because of pregnancy, breastfeeding, or pregnancy-related conditions. You are also protected from retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation, whether or not it is granted. Read more about Pregnancy Discrimination at Work.

Take-aways

About 20-30% of all pregnancies are categorized as high risk, but serious complications occur in only six to eight percent of all pregnancies. That means that most often what is categorized as high risk ends up as a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth.     

Hearing the news that your pregnancy is high-risk may make you feel nervous or anxious. Knowing your exact risks and empowering yourself with knowledge and a plan is a great way to gain control of the situation. But if the added stress of this news is significant, talk to your doctor. 

 

Featured Photo by Nuta Sorokina

Shop Products From This Article
Subscribe & Save $5.00 sticker bestseller
Prenatal Daily Packets
4.7 star rating 287 Reviews

Prenatal Daily Packets

Vegan prenatal daily packets

$60 $55

sticker save
Pregnancy Gift Basket
4.9 star rating 46 Reviews

Pregnancy Gift Basket

Gift set for a mom-to-be

$110 $99

Shop Products

Subscribe & Save $3.00 sticker bestseller
Magnesium Plus
4.5 star rating 71 Reviews

Magnesium Plus

Pregnancy-safe drink mix to support relaxation‡

$35 $32

Subscribe & Save $5.00 sticker bestseller
Prenatal Daily Packets
4.7 star rating 287 Reviews

Prenatal Daily Packets

Vegan prenatal daily packets

$60 $55

Subscribe & Save $3.00 sticker bestseller
Prenatal gummy vitamins
4.5 star rating 73 Reviews

Prenatal Gummies

Doctor-formulated & delicious prenatal gummies

$29 $26

sticker bestseller
Pregnancy Tests
4.7 star rating 208 Reviews

Pregnancy Tests

As low as $3.20 per test

$16

Subscribe & Save $4.00 sticker new
postnatal multivitamin supplement
4.4 star rating 5 Reviews

Postnatal Vitamin

Nutritional & energy boost for breastfeeding‡

$40 $36

Subscribe & Save $8.00 sticker save
Prenatal Vitamin and Magnesium Pregnancy-Safe Bundle
5.0 star rating 5 Reviews

Magnesium & Multi Pack

Bundle & save on top sellers

$85 $77

Subscribe & Save $15.00 sticker favorite
Trimester Pack: Prenatal Daily Packets
4.0 star rating 2 Reviews

Trimester Pack: Prenatal Daily Packets

A full trimester worth of prenatals at a great price

$165 $150

Subscribe & Save $5.00 sticker bestseller
Prenatal Daily Packets
4.7 star rating 287 Reviews

Prenatal Daily Packets

Vegan prenatal daily packets

$60 $55

sticker favorite
Women's Fertility Test Bundle
4.9 star rating 7 Reviews

Women's Fertility Test Bundle

Bundle & save $26

$205 $185

sticker bestseller
Legacy At-home Sperm Analysis
4.7 star rating 46 Reviews

Legacy At-home Sperm Analysis

Fertility analysis for him

$295

sticker save
The Test Strip Pack
4.8 star rating 32 Reviews

The Test Strip Pack

Bundle & save with our earth-friendlier test strips

$37

sticker save
TTC Essentials Bundle
4.0 star rating 2 Reviews

TTC Essentials Bundle

TTC just got more affordable

$76 $70

Reach Out, We're Here

Have questions about your order or products? For the speediest answer, check out our FAQ section. Need something else? Come find us below.

Customer Support
support@natalist.com

Press Inquiries
media@everlyhealth.com

Business & Partnerships
team@natalist.com

Affiliates + Influencers
team@natalist.com

Job Openings
Careers Page