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Your pregnancy is
called high-risk if you or your baby has an increased chance of a health
problem. Many things can put you at high risk. Being called "high-risk" may
sound scary. But it's just a way for doctors to make sure that you get special
attention during your pregnancy. Your doctor will watch you closely during your
pregnancy to find any problems early.
The conditions listed below
put you and your baby at a higher risk for problems, such as slowed growth for
preeclampsia, and problems with the
placenta. But it's important to remember that being at
high risk doesn't mean that you or your baby will have problems.
Your health plan may have its own list of what makes a pregnancy
high-risk. In general, your pregnancy may be high-risk if:
Other health problems can make your pregnancy high-risk.
These include heart valve problems,
sickle cell disease,
rheumatoid arthritis. Talk to your doctor about any
health problems you have.
You will have more visits to the doctor than a woman who does not have a
high-risk pregnancy. You may have more
ultrasound tests to make sure that your baby is
growing well. You will have regular blood pressure checks. And your urine will
be tested to look for protein (a sign of preeclampsia) and urinary tract
Tests for genetic or other problems also may be done,
especially if you are 35 or older or if you had a genetic problem in a past
Your doctor will prescribe any medicine you may need,
such as for diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure.
Talk to your
doctor about where he or she would like you to give birth. Your doctor may want
you to have your baby in a hospital that offers special care for women and
babies who may have problems.
If your doctor thinks that your
health or your baby's health is at risk, you may need to have the baby
Some women will see a doctor who has extra training in
high-risk pregnancies. These doctors are called maternal-fetal specialists, or
perinatologists. You may see this doctor and your
regular doctor. Or the specialist may be your doctor throughout your pregnancy.
You can help yourself and your baby be as healthy as possible:
Your doctor may ask you to keep track of how much your
baby moves every day.
pregnant woman, you need to watch for any signs of problems. This doesn't mean
that you will have any problems. But if you have any of these symptoms, it's
important to get care quickly.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you think you need emergency care. For example,
Call your doctor now or seek
medical care right away if:
The National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development (NICHD) is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The
NICHD conducts and supports research related to the health of children, adults,
and families. NICHD has information on its Web site about many health topics.
And you can send specific requests to information specialists.
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies
by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes
supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies'
lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth
defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
Other Works Consulted
Mehta SH, Sokol RJ (2007). Methods of assessment for
pregnancy at risk. In AH DeCherney et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp.
249–258. New York: McGraw-Hill.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2012). High-Risk Pregnancy. Available online: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/high_risk_pregnancy.cfm.
Seely EW, Ecker J (2008). Medical complications in pregnancy. In EG Nable, ed., ACP Medicine, section 16, chap. 9. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsnrfol.htm.
July 23, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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