What Makes a Pregnancy High-risk?   

What Makes a Pregnancy High-risk?

Breastfeeding with Implants
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Pamela Schultz, M.D.

Women have been having babies for millennia, but that doesn’t mean pregnancy and childbirth are without risk. Health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield conducted claims research and found that the number of women who experience pregnancy and childbirth complications is increasing. This is due in part to the fact that more women are becoming pregnant with preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Conditions that Put Pregnancy at Risk

Preexisting conditions are one of the main factors that qualify a pregnancy as high-risk. Pamela Schultz, M.D., FACOG, board-certified gynecologist and obstetrician at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, says some of the preexisting conditions affecting expectant mothers that can increase the risk of pregnancy include:

  • A history of chronic hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being overweight or having a BMI over 30
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Asthma and other lung conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Previous heart issues
  • Autoimmune conditions such as lupus, thyroid disorders, and ulcerative colitis

Anomalies in Utero

Maternal fetal medicine specialist Karen Koscica, D.O., adds that anomalies identified in babies in utero can also make a pregnancy high-risk. These include:

  • Growth restriction
  • Spina bifida
  • Heart defects
  • Genetic disorders

What Monitoring Is Needed?

High-risk pregnancies can still be successful, and Mom and Baby can lead healthy lives after birth, but it’s important for both to have the right pre- and post-natal care and start monitoring early.

Women with normal-risk pregnancies usually see their doctor:

  • Once a month in the first trimester
  • Twice per month in the second trimester
  • Once per week in the third trimester

Women with high-risk pregnancies may see their doctor much more frequently. During these visits, doctors will monitor the mother’s health by checking her blood pressure and other relevant vitals, such as blood sugar if she is diabetic. They will also conduct a nonstress test on the baby, which measures heart rate.

“With advances in ultrasound technology, we’re now able to diagnose about 60 percent of fetal anomalies as early as 12 weeks,” says Dr. Koscica. While most structural and genetic conditions can’t be treated prenatally, Dr. Koscica adds, early detection allows doctors to create a plan for mothers and babies to be well-taken care of at birth.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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