What is a high-risk pregnancy?
A high-risk pregnancy is one that involves complications or associated factors that pose a risk to the health of the mother and the foetus. Currently, around 10% of pregnancies are considered high risk.
Why is a pregnancy considered high-risk?
The main factors that can identify a pregnancy as high-risk include:
- High blood pressure – this can damage the mother’s kidneys, and increases the risk of preeclampsia and the baby being born underweight.
- Diabetes – high blood sugar levels can lead to birth defects, so mothers with diabetes must keep their blood sugar under control.
- Age of the mother – mothers over 35 years (especially first-time mothers) are at a higher risk of developing fibroids, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia during pregnancy, and have a higher probability of the child being born with a chromosome abnormality. Teen mothers are also at a higher risk of preeclampsia and high blood pressure, as well as anaemia and going into premature labour.
- Weight of the mother – obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, neural tube defects, caesarean delivery, and stillbirth. The baby is also at an increased risk of heart problems.
- Reproductive system abnormalities – problems in the uterus or ovaries, for example fibroids, can cause complications, including premature births or even miscarriages.
- Exposure to harmful substances – exposure to radiation, toxins, or chemicals can put both mother and child at risk. Additionally, if the mother takes drugs, smokes, or consumes alcohol during pregnancy, she could harm the foetus.
- Multiple births – giving birth to twins or triplets carries higher risk than just one baby, and mothers carrying multiple babies frequently go into labour prematurely.
When should you see a doctor?
Pregnancy proceeds differently in each woman, but there are some warning signs to go immediately to the doctor:
- High fever – especially if it lasts for several days, as the high body temperature can harm the foetus.
- Pain in one side of the belly at the beginning of pregnancy, since it could be an ectopic pregnancy
- Pain, discomfort and blood in urine
- Continuous vomiting
- Coughing up blood
- Frequent diarrhoea that lasts several days, sometimes accompanied by mucus or blood
- Intense headaches, accompanied by vision disorders such as blurred vision, seeing spots or flashes
- Inflammation of the hands, ankles or face (this can be a symptom of preeclampsia)
- Abdominal pain similar to a very intense contraction that does not stop, as well as cramps in the abdomen
- Heavy vaginal bleeding, which poses a significant risk of miscarriage
Monitoring of high-risk pregnancy
If a pregnancy is identified as being high risk, it should be monitored closely by the mother’s doctors, with regular prenatal check-ups.
The mother should try to avoid any factors within her control that could cause complications, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco consumption and maintaining a healthy body weight.