In an ideal world, the process of conception is pretty much straightforward. It is a natural process that has been replicated since time immemorial. You conceive, carry the pregnancy to term, get into labor, and give birth to a beautiful healthy baby. Hooray! Everything went according to plan. You are the newest mother in town. A few days later, you are discharged from hospital and off you are with your bundle of joy.
This is what we refer to as a normal pregnancy. A pregnancy where everything goes according to plan with no hiccups at all. While the majority of women have a normal pregnancy, there are some women whose pregnancies are anything but normal. They experience what doctors aptly refer to as “high risk pregnancy”.
What is a high risk pregnancy?
Any pregnancy where there is the existence of potential complications that could be fatal to the fetus, the mother, or both is considered high risk. In other words, a pregnancy that requires the supervision of a specialist for it to be successfully carried to term is considered high risk. Of course, if you are planning to conceive, you are curious to find out some of the factors/reasons that make a pregnancy high risk. You are in the right place as I’m going to address those factors shortly.
Reasons/Factors That Make a Pregnancy High Risk
When we talk about age, you might be forgiven to think that only teens are at a higher risk of dangerous pregnancies. Older women, or women who conceive after the age of 35 experience high risk pregnancy too. So let’s look at these two classes a little deeper. Shall we? You will agree with me that teenage pregnancies are on the rise now more than at any other time in history. Unfortunately, teenagers are not mature enough to carry pregnancies to term. Granted, some do. However, majority of teenage pregnancies are high risk. Pregnant teens are not only naïve but lack the necessary financial support to take care of their pregnancy.
Add to that the stigma arising from ridicule and the fact that they have little to no knowledge of dangers associated with STIs during pregnancy and you have the perfect recipe for a high risk pregnancy. Pregnant teens are more susceptible to pregnancy related high blood pressure, deficiency in iron (anemia), preterm labor, and premature birth. In addition to this, they not only lack necessary funds to seek prenatal care and in cases where a parent is supportive, there is a high likelihood that they will miss prenatal appointments. See? With all these factors taken into consideration, only a few teen pregnancies are successfully carried to term.
On the other hand, older women (women who conceive after the age of 35 years) are also prone to high risk pregnancies. This is not to say that if you get pregnant after the age of 35 you won’t have a normal pregnancy. Far from it. While a good number of women over the age of 35 years have normal pregnancies, research has shown that older women are more likely to experience certain complications during pregnancy compared to younger women between the ages of 18 and early 30’s. Some of these complications include:
- Gestational hypertension (pregnancy related high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes
- Ectopic pregnancy (a condition where the embryo attaches itself outside the uterus)
- Excessive bleeding during delivery
- Prolonged labor (This is labor that lasts for more than 20 hours)
- Genetic disorders (think along the lines of down syndrome)
- Cesarean (surgical) delivery (most are unable to give birth normally)
Yes. You read that right. Your lifestyle choices while pregnant can make your pregnancy high risk. The rule of thumb is that when you get pregnant, you drop habits that could potentially harm your baby. You can’t go a day without downing a bottle of alcohol? It’s time to quit. Smoke marijuana, cigarettes, or snort cocaine? It’s advisable to quit for the sake of your baby. Simply put, abusing drugs during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications such as:
- Preterm labor/birth
- Your baby being born with birth defects such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Miscarriage or still birth
- Changes in the infants immune system
- Interference of the infants normal brain development
Depression is a mental health problem that does not sit well with pregnancy. Some pregnant women suffer from anxiety and depression informed by a number of factors such as being shunned by their partner, constantly worrying about the well-being of their pregnancy, and stress among many others. Untreated depression can pose serious threats to a pregnancy. We’ve all hard of people who harm themselves or even commit suicide due to depression. Seek medical help before the condition becomes worse.
Some medical conditions without a doubt make a pregnancy high risk. Some conditions are pregnancy related while others are simply pre-existing conditions one had before getting pregnant. The following medical conditions will seriously put your pregnancy at high risk.
In simple terms, gestational diabetes refers to pregnancy related diabetes. What this means is that a woman who never had diabetes pre-pregnancy develops it on getting pregnant. Gestational diabetes is dangerous and if not managed poses great risks not only to the mother but also the fetus. Some of these risks include high blood pressure, preterm labor, and preterm birth. Pregnant women who suffer from gestational diabetes also have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes at some point later in life. The same applies to their unborn baby.
If you are pregnant with more than one fetus (twins, triplets, quadruplets etc.), the condition is known as multiple gestation. Multiple gestation decreases your chances of giving birth normally (chances are that you will give birth through cesarean section). It also increases the chances of premature labor and preterm birth (giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy). Consequently, if you are pregnant with multiple fetuses, they are more likely to be smaller in size at the time of birth.
Previous Preterm Labor
Have a history of preterm labor? Did you have your baby before the 37th week in your last pregnancy? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your current pregnancy is deemed high risk. Chance are that if you had a previous preterm labor, you won’t carry the current pregnancy to term. Your healthcare provider will most likely monitor your pregnancy to ensure that everything goes on well till the due date.
Preeclampsia is fatal and a condition where a pregnant woman’s blood pressure suddenly increases after the 20th week of pregnant. Many women lose their pregnancy due to preeclampsia and are left at a loss as to what happened to a pregnancy that seemed okay a couple of hours ago. Preeclampsia at its worst can affect a mother’s brain, liver, and kidneys.
HIV or Aids
If you are infected with HIV or Aids, your pregnancy is considered high risk as your baby can get infected before it’s born, during the time of delivery, or contract the virus when breastfeeding. The good news is that there is medication that can drastically reduce the risk of your baby contracting the virus.
The aforementioned factors are not all inclusive. Pregnancies differ from one woman to another. The same applies to complications. Some women are more susceptible to certain complications due to their genetic makeup as compared to others. What’s important is that you be on top of things and work closely with your healthcare provider during pregnancy. That said, what measures can you put in place to promote a healthy pregnancy? Read on to find out.
Measures To Take in Order To Promote a Healthy Pregnancy
If you are planning to get pregnant for the very first time, you don’t know what the future holds. You need to think ahead of time and take steps to prevent pregnancy complications. Granted, you could be having no pre-existing conditions. However, in order to be on the safe side, health care provider’s advice that you take the necessary measures to prevent a high risk pregnancy. Some of these measures include:
Scheduling A Preconception Appointment With Your Healthcare Provider
You have made up your mind to get pregnant. This is unchartered waters. You’ve heard stories before of complications that arise during pregnancy. You are sure that you do not have any medical conditions that you know of. You want to avert a situation whereby you lose your baby because of complications. If that’s the case, it is important that you schedule a preconception appointment. During such appointments, your healthcare provider will counsel, shed light on various complications that occur during pregnancy and prescribe you daily prenatal vitamins (folic acid). The idea is to ensure that by the time you get pregnant, you have attained the necessary healthy weight to carry your pregnancy to term. If you have any questions regarding pregnancy, this is the time to ask!
Eat A Healthy Diet
It’s a no brainer, right? If you are seeking to have a healthy pregnancy, eating a healthy diet is of essence. Ensure that you take your prenatal vitamins, and eat foods rich in iron, proteins, calcium, and other essential nutrients. If you have any special diet needs, talk to your health care provider to guide you accordingly.
Avoid Risky And Harmful Substances
You heard me right. Stay away from alcohol and other harmful substances. If you are looking to have a healthy pregnancy, smoking, snorting cocaine, drinking alcohol, and abusing other harmful substances are not recommended.
Visit Your Healthcare Provider Regularly
Prenatal visits are mandatory. They ensure that your healthcare provider keeps track of your pregnancy, monitors your health as well as that of your baby and nips in the bud any red flags before they get dangerous.
Of course, you might want to consult your healthcare provider on the kind of exercises that are safe during pregnancy.
You’ve learnt of the reasons/factors that make a pregnancy high risk, you are in the know of ways to promote a healthy pregnancy, how can you tell that the symptoms you are experiencing point to a high risk pregnancy? I mean, you would want to know, right? Ignorance is after all not bliss. No?
Signs or Symptoms That Your Pregnancy Could Be High Risk
- Vaginal bleeding
- Decreased fetal movement (fetus not moving? That is a red flag)
- Severe headaches
- Lower abdominal pain
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Frequent contractions
- Changes in vision (blurred vision would be a red flag)
The Final Take
Losing a baby is an experience you can’t wish on your worst enemy. Some women never get over that traumatic experience. Some blame themselves for not being vigilant enough, for ignoring that lower abdominal pain, for thinking prenatal visits are overrated and whatnot. Let this not happen to you. If you suspect that your pregnancy is high risk, visit your healthcare provider immediately. If you are planning to get pregnant, schedule a preconception appointment. If you have lost a pregnancy in the past, work closely with your health care provider to ensure that you carry your current pregnancy to term. Taking the necessary precautionary measures ensures that you carry your pregnancy to term and that you get to meet your prince charming after 9 months!