Pregnancies are typically classified as low-risk or high-risk. As moms may have guessed, a high-risk pregnancy simply means that this pregnancy is at greater likelihood of developing complications or health concerns. Thus, it is recommended that extra pre-natal care and monitoring is given in order to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
There are many risk factors associated with high-risk pregnancies, and sometimes it’s easier to tell than others whether a pregnancy will be difficult or not. Pre-existing health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, or some diseases, can make a pregnancy riskier. If mom is carrying multiple babies, like twins or triplets, it increases the chance of complications. Similarly, if she's had fertility or pregnancy problems in the past, it puts her at risk of developing problems during pregnancy.
Though all of this can sound scary, oftentimes a high-risk pregnancy goes smoothly without a hitch. The important and most beneficial thing is to make sure mom is receiving regular pre-natal care and strictly following the advice of her doctor(s). We’ve rounded up 20 common rules for high risk pregnancies to help moms learn what to do and what not to do if a pregnancy has been classified as high-risk. But, when in doubt, always consult with a health care professional!
A high-risk pregnancy refers to a pregnancy in which there is an increased chance that you or the baby may suffer health complications, thus putting the pregnancy as risk. Though the term sounds scary, it’s just a way for doctors to identify that you might need special attention or carry during the pregnancy.
There are various factors that put you had a higher chance of having a high-risk pregnancy. If you suffer from health problems such as kidney disease, epilepsy, high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, it puts you at a higher risk. Drinking, smoking, or abusing illegal substances, even in the past, may also contribute.
Doctors will likely deem you a high-risk pregnancy if you’ve had fertility or pregnancy complications in the past, such as multiple miscarriages, pre-eclampsia, or pre-term labour, or if your baby has a genetic condition. Being under the age of 17 or older that 35 can also increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
Many high-risk pregnancies come with the risk of going into pre-term labour. Getting an ultrasound that checks for cervical length can determine if it looks like you’ll give birth before your due date or not.
“Cervical length in high-risk women for preterm birth has to be identified before early second trimester,” the National Center for Biotechnology Informationexplains. “Sequential evaluations lead to high predictive significance. The mean cervical length at 24 weeks is about 35 mm when measured by downstairs ultrasound. A short cervix is defined as a cervix that is less than 25 mm and funnelling.”
Most Doctor’s strongly recommend against doing a planned, home birth if your pregnancy has been classified as high risk!
For low risk pregnancies, most of the time it’s safe to have a home birth so long as its planned with the help of a midwife or birthing professional. As Dr. Brian Goldman for CBC explains, “The key to safety is that the birth is judged to be low-risk. A low-risk pregnancy is one in which there are no anticipated complications that require that a midwife transfer care to an obstetrician or family doctor.”
However, if you know your pregnancy is high risk, it means there is a higher likelihood of unprecedented complications arising, which minas its safer to give birth in a hospital rather than having to rush to the nearest ER if things don’t go as planned in a home birth.
Many experts recommend taking folic acid, which is one of the B vitamins, daily in order to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy defects, and to help ensure you and the baby are healthy during the entire pregnancy.
As Health Link BC explains, “Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy reduces your chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or other birth defects.”
Folic acids can be found in many foods, so you may not even have to take an additional supplement to get the recommend intake. It’s abundant in leafy vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and lettuce, fruits, like bananas, orange and melons, and anything containing yeast.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, then you’re at a higher likelihood of your baby being born with genetic conditions. An amniocentesis is able to test for possible genetic defects before the baby gets here.
During the procedure, a sample of the fluid that surrounds and protects the Fetus in the womb is taken out of the uterus, and then tested. This is usually done after the 15thweek of pregnancy. This test can identify various genetic conditions and neural tube defects, including abnormalities to the brain and spinal cord.
It’s vital to identify these conditions beforehand as they may pose risk to the pregnancy, or come with post-labour challenge you’ll need to prepare.
Working out while pregnant or strenuous physical activity can be stressful to any pregnancy, so it’s especially important to keep this under wraps if you’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy.
According to Baby Center, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) specifically advises against exercising during pregnancy if you have any of the following conditions, which likely already make your pregnancy high risk: heart or lung disease, multiple pregnancy, cervical insufficiency, persistent bleeding, preterm labour, preeclampsia, or severe anemia.
Consult with your doctor about how much physical activity is all right for your pregnancy, and take their recommendation to heart. Also, don’t start any new workout regimen (even if it’s supposedly pregnancy-safe) before discussing it with your Doc.
If you’re pregnancy is high-risk, it’s important to be vigilant about any warning signs or symptoms that make be an indicator of greater health problems or complications.
Health Link BC recommends consulting your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms: bleeding or release of fluids, stomach pain or cramping, a high fever, lower back or pelvic pain, or if you notice the baby has stopped moving.
However, you should call 911 right away if you experience any of these symptoms: loss of consciousness, severe pain in your belly or pelvis, heavy bleeding or gushing fluids.
There’s never been a more important time to eat healthy than when you’re pregnant!
Ensuring you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need is crucial to help your baby grow healthy and strong, especially if you’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. Discuss your current diet with your doctor and see what changes you might need to make to ensure you’re putting your health first.
During pregnancy, you tend to need more folic acid, protein, calcium, and iron, so make sure you’re eating daily foods that cover this group. A daily prenatal vitamin may also help to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients, but always speak with your doctor first.
It’s important to make sure you’re telling your doctor everything about your medical history and lifestyle habits!
While doctors know a lot about medicine, they don’t know a lot about you. Actually, they only know what you tell them. It’s critical to tell them if you’ve had any past health or fertility problems, what medications you have or are currently taking, and if you have any bad habits, like excessive drinking or smoking.
Giving your doctor a well-rounded picture of yourself will help them be more informed, so they can make better decisions when it comes to you and your baby’s health. Even if something is embarrassing or you’d rather not talk about it, it’s important you have an open dialogue with your doctor, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.
If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, and know that your pregnancy will likely be high risk, it’s in your best interest to schedule a preconception appointment. Your doctor will be able to tell you of the potential risks of carrying a baby to term, and can give you recommendations for how to increase your chances of pregnancy.
“He or she might counsel you to start taking a daily prenatal vitamin with folic acid and reach a healthy weight before you become pregnant,” the Mayo Clinic explains. “If you have a medical condition, your treatment might need to be adjusted to prepare for pregnancy. Your health care provider might also discuss your risk of having a baby with a genetic condition.”
Though most pregnancies come with their fair share of anxiety, you can expect to be a lot more stressed out and worried if your pregnancy is high-risk. That’s why it’s important to be aware of and try to manage your anxiety, which will otherwise only contribute stress to your pregnancy.
“Unfortunately, anxiety can affect your health and your baby's health. Consult your health care provider about healthy ways to relax and stay calm,” the Mayo Clinic suggests. “Some studies suggest that techniques such as imagining pleasant objects or experiences or listening to music can reduce anxiety during pregnancy.”
With any high-risk pregnancy comes a higher likelihood that you may need to have a C-section if things don’t go as planned with the natural birth.
Many doctors recommend you mentally prepare beforehand for this possibility, and that you’re prepared to have some recovering to do post-labour. It’s important to have a support system behind you who can help with your potential recover if you do have a C-section, as you’ll be sore and unable to move as you normally would post-procedure.
And, most importantly, don’t be intimidated by the sound of a C-section! While it can seem scary if you’ve never had one, it’s a common procedure that is oftentimes safer than having a natural birth.
If you like taking long, luxurious baths, then you’re probably not going to want t hear this- but, taking baths during pregnancy is usually recommended against!
Baths while pregnant can potentially increase the risk of infection, which poses an even larger risk to you and your baby if your pregnancy is classified as high-risk. Likewise, warm water temperatures can pose a risk to your unborn infants.
According to baby Center, if the temperature is too high, it can cause a drop in blood pressure (which can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients), dizziness, weakness, and can increase the likelihood of birth defects and miscarriages. Thus, many Doctors say to avoid baths, pools, and hot tubs altogether.
No two doctors’ are alike!
As impressive as their history may be, if you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor or don’t agree with something they’re doing, then it’s completely okay to seek another opinion.
It can actually be harmful to you and your baby to stay with a doctor you’re not a fan of, because having an open relationship with them is crucial to ensuring the pregnancy goes smoothly, especially if its classified as high-risk. Don’t be afraid to see another opinion, or to completely switch doctors altogether. All that matters is that you’re happy with the medical care you’re receiving!
Obviously, during pregnancy, you’re bound to gain some weight! But, it’s important to ensure you’re gaining the right amount, because gaining too much or too little can be harmful to you and your baby.
It’s important to work with your Doctor to ensure you’re gaining an appropriate amount of weight. Not only will this ensure your pregnancy is as healthy as possible, but it will make it all the easier to lose the weight post-labour if you’re making sure you’re not gaining too much.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and listening to your recommendations are the easiest ways to ensuring you’re putting on the right amount of weight.
The worst thing you can do during a high-risk pregnancy is to hang around people you know are sick!
When you’re pregnancy is high-risk, it puts you at a higher chance of contracting infections, which can pose a more serious risk to your baby than in a normal pregnancy. Obviously, it’s not realistic to avoid everyone who might be sick while you’re preggo… heck; you might not even know they’re sick!
But take precautions like not going out of your way to associate with someone who’s feeling sick. They’ll likely totally understand why it’s dangerous given your high-risk pregnancy. And, of course, always wash your hands as much as possible to stop the spread of infections.
Your doctor may prescribe specific medicines, vitamins, or supplements that will help keep you and the baby healthy during your pregnancy.
It’s important to listen to your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to taking new medicines or supplements. Likewise, it’s not safe to take any vitamins or medicines, even those that are over-the-counter, without consulting with your doctor first.
Of course, if you don’t agree or are concerned with something your doctor is recommending, it’s perfectly fine to seek a second opinion. Never do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but always consult your doctor before starting or stopping any new medications or vitamins.
Going through a high-risk pregnancy is going to be more stress-inducing and emotional than a low-risk pregnancy, especially if you or your baby have been diagnosed with any certain conditions.
It can be scary thinking about what the future holds, or running through your mind all the potentially bad things that could happen. That’s why it’s important to have a strong support system behind you that you can rely on when things are getting tough.
Make sure you have friends or family members you can trust and confide in. Likewise, work on having open communication with your partner, as it’s likely you’re both feeling some of the same feelings.
Even if you don’t think you need it, it’s important to be seeking regular pre-natal care and supervision if you’re going through a high-risk pregnancy.
The Mayo Clinic explains, “Prenatal visits can help your health care provider monitor your health and your baby's health. Depending on the circumstances, you might be referred to a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine, genetics, pediatrics or other areas.”
At the very least, this will allow your doctor to monitor any existing health conditions, ensure you and the baby are in top health, and diagnose any pregnancy complications. Better safe than sorry!
Just like you shouldn’t begin any new medication or supplements without consulting your doctor first, the same can be said about starting any new meds.
Your doctor is aware of what medication you’re currently taking, and what could be harmful if you mix them together. Likewise, some medications or supplements, even over the counter, may be harmful to your baby and you don’t even know. A Doctor can tell you this beforehand so you don’t make any mistakes.
It can be hard on your body constantly switching between new medications, so always be cautious before beginning anything new when you’re expecting.
References: The Mayo Clinic, CBC,The National Center for Biotechnology Information, The Bump, HealthLink BC, Baby Center, Baby Center