Pregnancy is transformative. It’s an amazing experience, but it’s no secret that your body goes through dramatic changes during those nine months. All pregnancies carry some risk, but for some women, those risks are more complex.
About 50,000 American women experience high-risk pregnancies each year. A high-risk pregnancy is one in which you or your developing baby faces increased chances of complications — and it means you might need extra prenatal care to protect your health.
A. Michael Coppa, MD, and our team specialize in high-risk obstetrics in Cranston, Providence, and Smithfield, Rhode Island, and we’re here to help you understand what makes a pregnancy a high-risk one.
What makes a pregnancy high risk?
Understanding the contributing factors and the management options available is the first step to promoting well-being of both you and your baby.
Here are a few factors that may make your pregnancy a higher risk:
One of the most common factors associated with high-risk pregnancies is your age. In general, mothers ages 17 or younger and 35 or older are considered at high risk due to increased chances of complications.
Being 35 or older can increase your risk of complications like chromosomal abnormalities and gestational diabetes. As you get older, it’s also more likely that you develop underlying health conditions that can make pregnancy more challenging.
A number of preexisting chronic conditions can affect the health of your pregnancy. A few of the most common conditions are:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Genetic disorders
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
If you have any of these conditions, you could be at an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, fetal growth restrictions, and other pregnancy complications.
Carrying more than one baby (including twins, triplets, and higher-order multiples) often increases the complexity and risks associated with pregnancy. If you’re pregnant with multiples, you may be more likely to experience preterm birth, low birth weight, and other complications.
Sometimes, low- and average-risk pregnancies turn into high-risk pregnancies. You may develop pregnancy complications like placental abnormalities, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes without any other risk factors. If that happens, it can make your pregnancy a high-risk one.
How we manage high-risk pregnancy
High-risk pregnancies require careful monitoring. Being proactive is the best way to protect the health of both you and your unborn baby. Dr. Coppa takes a collaborative approach with you and other members of your health care team to develop a comprehensive management plan.
Here are some key management strategies:
Prenatal care and monitoring
Regular prenatal visits are key to identifying potential complications early on. Early intervention means we can initiate appropriate management strategies sooner, and we may recommend more frequent prenatal visits to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.
Depending on your needs, we may refer you to maternal-fetal medicine specialists who have expertise in managing complex cases. These specialists can offer additional monitoring, specialized testing, and personalized care plans, along with your routine prenatal care.
A healthy lifestyle is important for all pregnancies, but it’s even more essential for women with high-risk complications. We often recommend eating a balanced diet and engaging in gentle regular exercise, as long as it’s safe for you.
Medications and interventions
We may prescribe medication or other treatments depending on your specific risk factors. For example, medication can help manage hypertension or gestational diabetes, while cerclage (cervical stitch) could help reduce your risk of preterm birth.
Navigating a high-risk pregnancy can present challenges, but you don’t have to go it alone. Dr. Coppa and our team work with you to identify risk factors and monitor your health as your pregnancy progresses.
To learn more and request a prenatal visit, call the office nearest you or contact us online today.