About eight percent of pregnant women experience a high-risk pregnancy in the United States each year, and this number is on the rise. But the reasons for a high-risk pregnancy can vary drastically.
Pregnancies are considered high-risk if they have one or more of these factors:
- Fetus with a congenital abnormality (present at birth) or genetic condition
- Gestational diabetes in the mother
- Heart condition or other medical condition in the mother that could affect pregnancy
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia in the mother
- Mother under age 20 or older than 35
- Multiple fetuses
- Placenta conditions, like placenta accreta or placenta previa
- Problems in previous pregnancies, such as multiple miscarriages or early deliveries
Basically, a pregnancy is considered high risk if it is more likely that the mother or child will face complications during the pregnancy, labor and delivery, or postpartum than in typical pregnancies. That means not all high-risk pregnancies are created equally. Some pose only a minor risk to you and your child’s health, while others could be life-threatening.
But with all these possibilities, you probably feel anxious about your health or your baby’s health. You might be wondering what happens next for you and your child.
In general, you’ll follow these steps to care for your high-risk pregnancy.
1. Schedule an Appointment with a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Doctor
First, you’ll meet with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor (perinatologist). These highly specialized doctors have undergone specific training to care for high-risk pregnancies. They’ll work with your OB/GYN to manage your care throughout pregnancy and during labor and delivery.
During your first appointment with your maternal-fetal medicine doctor, you might:
- Discuss test results or the need for more testing, such as additional ultrasounds, echocardiograms or blood tests.
- Learn more about any conditions you have and what risk they pose to you or your child’s health.
- Talk about a during-pregnancy care plan, including any medicines you need to take or changes you should make to your diet or activities.
- Undergo additional testing or schedule future tests.
We recommend you bring a friend or family member to your appointment to help take notes and give you emotional strength. You might talk about very complex subjects with your doctor, so another person can help you take notes or remember what you heard.
2. Visit Your Doctor More Frequently
During your high-risk pregnancy, you may have more frequent appointments with multiple providers, including:
- Maternal-fetal medicine doctor
- Other specialists who may have special expertise in your condition
It’s important to keep all your appointments so your doctors can monitor your health and make any needed changes to your care plan. You may have different tests during these appointments, such as blood tests, urine tests, echocardiograms, or ultrasounds.
You should also feel free to call your OB/GYN’s office at any time to get answers to your questions or concerns.
3. Know the Signs of Problems
Your maternal-fetal medicine doctor will teach you about symptoms that might signal you need care – now. These can include:
- Blurry vision or other changes in vision
- Feeling your baby or babies move less
- Fever or chills
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Pain or cramping in your pelvis
- Severe headaches
- Swelling in your face, hands or fingers
- Vaginal bleeding
- Vomiting or nausea that won’t go away
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Your water breaking (a trickle or gush of watery discharge)
If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your OB/GYN’s office right away. They may ask you to come in for a quick check-up and monitoring. However, if you aren’t sure you need help, call your doctor’s office anyway. It is always better to be safe and let your doctor decide what, if any, care you need.
The Memorial Healthcare Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists provide advanced, patient- and family-centered care for all mothers experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. They work with you to develop a personalized care plan to protect you and your child’s health.
Learn more about our high-risk pregnancy services.