What is a high-risk pregnancy?
There is no one, formal definition of a high-risk pregnancy. Generally, a high-risk pregnancy means:
You or your baby is more likely to become ill or die than usual
Complications before or after delivery are more likely to occur than usual
Certain conditions, called risk factors, make a pregnancy high risk. Problems can happen during the pregnancy, during delivery, or in the weeks after delivery.
Doctors watch high-risk pregnancies very carefully
If your pregnancy is considered high risk, you may be sent to a special doctor, clinic, or hospital
Receiving proper medical care could save your life and your baby's life
What can make your pregnancy high risk?
Some of the common factors that make your pregnancy high risk include:
Age (girls 15 or under and women 35 or older are at higher risk)
Smoking, drinking, or using drugs
Being very underweight or overweight
Having had problems during any previous pregnancy, such as having had a miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage is when your pregnancy ends before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding and cramping are common signs of miscarriage If you... read more or having had a baby born too early (premature Preterm (Premature) Baby A preterm baby, also called a premature baby, is born too early. A full pregnancy lasts 37 to 40 weeks, so a preterm baby is born anytime before the 37th week of pregnancy. The earlier babies... read more ) or too small Small-for-Gestational-Age Baby Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) is a term used to describe a baby who is smaller than most babies. Gestational age is how far along the pregnancy is, measured in weeks. It's important to compare... read more
Having medical problems, particularly high blood pressure High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the pressure of blood in your arteries is too high. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the body. Blood pressure that's... read more , diabetes Diabetes During Pregnancy Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Blood sugar is your body’s main source of energy. Your body breaks down all types of foods, including bread, fruit... read more , heart disorders, and sickle cell disease Sickle Cell Disease Sickle cell disease is a lifelong problem with your red blood cells. It's something you’re born with that causes some of your red blood cells to be unusually shaped. Instead of being shaped... read more
Developing problems with your pregnancy, such as when your placenta grows in the wrong spot or comes loose too early—the placenta is a round, flat organ inside the womb that connects to the baby by the umbilical cord
Getting an infection during your pregnancy, including kidney infections, sexually transmitted infections, and many others
Being pregnant with more than one baby, such as twins or triplets
What causes mothers to die?
Death rates from pregnancy are different around the world. In the United States, 24 women die for every 100,000 babies born. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the mother could have gotten medical care early in the pregnancy. The most common causes of death in mothers include:
Preeclampsia Preeclampsia and Eclampsia Preeclampsia is a certain type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy. The placenta (afterbirth) is the organ in your uterus (womb) that feeds the fetus (baby). Preeclampsia can... read more (a type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy)
Blood clots in the lungs
Complications of health problems that existed before you became pregnant
What causes babies to die?
Some common reasons babies can die before or right after birth include:
Being born too early (more than 3 weeks before the due date)
Problems with the placenta (the organ inside the uterus that carries nutrition and blood to the fetus)
Complications during birth, such as the baby not being able to breathe
Sudden infant death syndrome Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected death of a baby who previously seemed healthy. The death occurs during sleep for no clear reason. That's why it’s sometimes called crib... read more (SIDS, the death of a healthy baby during sleep)
How do doctors tell if your pregnancy is high risk?
Doctors consider your pregnancy high risk if you:
Go into labor more than 3 weeks before your due date
How do doctors treat high-risk pregnancies?
Doctors will treat you and your pregnancy very carefully. You may need to see a special doctor or clinic that treats high-risk pregnancies. You'll probably have to see the doctor more often than women who aren't high risk. You may even need visits by a nurse at your home.
If you have a certain medical problem making your pregnancy high risk, doctors will treat that problem. You must be sure to take all the medicines your doctor prescribes and follow any special diet you're given.