Some pregnancies can be especially difficult. For a variety of reasons, women can be placed into the category of high risk, which means that the health of the baby or the mom is at more risk than unusual, and that is the last thing that a mom-to-be wants to hear. The best part, though, is that doctors and specialists are on the alert to do all that they can to ensure a safe delivery.
High-risk pregnancies can include women who are over 35 or who have a preexisting medical condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer or another chronic condition. The designation can also go to women whose babies are diagnosed with certain conditions or women who have pregnancy complications. It's also given to pregnancies that involve twins, triplets or higher order multiples because of the unique complications that can arise before and during the birth.
The situation can be rough, and many times moms-to-be feel out of control. There are a lot of tests and appointments, and it can make the normal jitters of pregnancy seem overwhelming. But we have some tips that can help a woman handle the scariest nine months or so of her life. Here are 20 ways to help a high-risk pregnancy become safer.
20 Follow Doctor's Orders
This bit of advice might seem obvious, but in a normal pregnancy, the doctor usually doesn't have to give a lot of orders. He gives a lot of foods to avoid and other dos and don'ts but many times there aren't a lot of things to talk about other than regular healthy lifestyle choices. But when you have a high risk pregnancy, there are medications to consider, lots of tests and medical considerations.
Of course, there might be times when a woman questions her doctor's orders, and if so, she can get another opinion. With a high risk pregnancy, especially, it's important to remember that the doctor is weighing risks and rewards. He's got the health of the mom and the baby in mind, so work with him to try to find a safe solution that you both agree on.
19 See A Specialist
A woman with a high-risk pregnancy won't just have one doctor; she'll have two. That's because most OB/GYNs will refer a mom-to-be with high risks to a maternal fetal specialist to make sure that both mom and baby are getting the best care possible. The specialist might have some specialized equipment, and she definitely has more training and experience with problems such as birth defects and other concerns.
While most of the time the specialist and the regular OB will keep in touch, it's important that a mom-to-be makes sure that everyone is on the same page. It might be hard to keep the appointments straight, but input from both doctors will help ensure that things go as smoothly as possible in the pregnancy and birth.
18 Consider Extra Testing
When a mom is at high risk, that can often mean that the baby is at a higher risk of genetic or birth defects. That can happen when she is older than 35, and definitely after 40, when she smokes, when she has her own health issues and more. That is why the doctor is likely to recommend going through various screenings and tests, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, which can find out the likelihood of things the Down syndrome and other genetic or neural tube issues. Those tests can come with risks as well, but it's possible that knowing the baby's health can help the doctors and parents prepare for the birth and afterward.
17 Get Lots Of Rest
Pregnancy can be hard on any woman, and for those who are older or who have health issues, it can be even harder. That's why we are stressing the need for a high risk mom-to-be to get lots of rest. Between the appointments and the exhaustion, not to mention all the things that go into taking care of home and work, it can be hard to find time to take it easy. But if a mom-to-be doesn't take care of herself, she may end up hurting the health of herself and the baby. She may end up in premature labor or on bed rest to force herself to slow down. Some moms do fine with a good night's sleep, but others need more time to rest. Now is the time to listen to your body and don't apologize if you need to take a nap.
16 Quit Unhealthy Habits
Whether the pregnancy is high risk or not, it is time for a woman to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible for herself and her baby. Vices like smoking, drinking and drugs can seem like less of a big deal at other times, but they can be deadly for an unborn baby. Those three habits are often responsible for birth defects and neurological problems that can impact the baby for his entire life, and unfortunately they could also cause miscarriage and stillbirth. These can be compounded if the woman is already at risk, so it's important to quit as soon as possible. With all three, it's also a good idea to quit under doctor supervision, so talk to your doctor and make a plan that can help the health of the baby and the mother.
15 Exercise, If Able
Part of being healthy during pregnancy means you have to move, as long as your doctor has given permission. A daily walk can do wonders for helping a mom with gestational diabetes, or a Zumba workout or yoga sun salutations can be great for a mom who wants to be ready for labor and delivery. Of course, there are some situations where exercise can be dangerous, such as a mom who is on bed rest because of a problem with the cervix or a risk of premature labor. Talk to your doctor, but for most, exercise is a healthy habit to continue or begin during pregnancy.
14 Do Not Skip Meds
In the first trimester, all pregnant women have to have a conversation with the doctor or midwife about continuing any medication they were on before they conceived. There are a number of drugs that have risks to the baby and might need to be stopped during pregnancy. But with a high-risk pregnancy, the doctor might prescribe medication to keep gestational diabetes, blood pressure or other ailments in check. Those medications are very important, and the doctor has already assessed the risk and reward, so it's important that the mom follows the medication schedule as closely as she can. Those prescriptions are there to help you and the baby, so don't skip them.
13 Manage Physical Changes
Many women decide not to worry about their weight during pregnancy, and they end up gaining more than 50 pounds over nine months. That might be OK for a normal pregnancy, but when a mom is high risk, she needs to work to manage her weight gain. For example, an overweight mom only needs to gain about 15 to 25 pounds, and if she has gestational diabetes, gaining more can lead to a big baby that might get stuck during labor and delivery. Most of the time doctors don't recommend that a mom diets during pregnancy, but she should do what she can to manage the weight that she gains to make sure it isn't excessive.
12 Expect A Lot Of Ultrasounds
There aren't a lot of ways that doctors can keep an eye on the baby during pregnancy. Other than a non-stress test that can investigate heart rate, the only option is the ultrasound, and so a mom in a high risk pregnancy should expect to have a lot of them. Regular ultrasounds can help the doctor keep an eye on all of the baby's organs, the placement of the placenta and the amount of amniotic fluid. Depending on reason the pregnancy is labeled high risk and the severity of the issue, the specialist and the OB both might schedule a number of ultrasounds. Try to enjoy them; they let you get a glimpse of your sweet little one.
11 Healthy Habits Before Pregnancy
We've talked a lot about living a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, but the best way to ensure the health of the mom and the baby is to adopt a healthy lifestyle before conceiving. For women who are trying to have a baby, it's important to go ahead and talk to the doctor about how to be healthy. That means stop smoking, drinking and drugs; start exercising and eating a healthy diet. Women who are overweight might want to lose pounds since it can help in the conception and in pregnancy. Most of the baby's vital organs are formed before a woman even knows she is pregnant, so adopting those healthy habits before conception can set the mom and baby up for a smoother pregnancy.
10 Talk To A Nutritionist
Eating the ideal diet is easier said than done. That is especially true when you have a condition like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. So it can be best to get expert advice and talk to a nutritionist. With an order from the doctor, it would be covered by most insurance plans, and it can give a woman an idea of how to handle her condition and how to plan her meals. Pregnant women shouldn't give up all carbs because that could harm the baby, but a nutritionist can help her make sure she has enough to sustain the baby's development while controlling her sugar. She can also help tailor a diet to lower blood pressure or help with other conditions. A healthy diet can help a lot in maintaining health.
9 Keep Stress Low
This is another thing that is easier said than done, but women who are going through high risk pregnancies need to do all that they can to keep their stress low. Research has proven that stress can have an impact on an unborn baby's development, including the mom's blood pressure and possibly leading to premature birth and low birth weight. Of course, adding on pregnancy complications, birth defects and more doctors appointments and tests can just exacerbate the stress a mom-to-be is already feeling. So moms need to try to find a way to decompress. As difficult as it is, moms need to try to concentrate on the positive and try to let go of their stress.
8 Avoid Infections
During pregnancy, a woman is more susceptible to getting sick than ever before, and a mom in a high risk pregnancy might be even more vulnerable. That's why we included this tip to do all that you can to avoid infections. That means avoiding people who are sick, and doing your best to wash hands. Moms-to-be should be up-to-date on their vaccinations, and the flu vaccine is especially critical for high-risk moms. It's also imperative that a person who is engaging in sex with multiple partners practice safe sex; there is no danger of pregnancy, but contracting a sexually transmitted disease can be lethal to the baby. Illnesses can pass to the baby or have an impact on the birth, so it's best to do what you can to avoid them.
7 Get Chronic Conditions Under Control
As we have mentioned, women who have chronic conditions are likely to be placed into the high risk category. So their No. 1 priority needs to be to manage their underlying condition. Even if they have been managing well for years, pregnancy can cause a change that might mean the need for new medications or therapies, so they need to work with their doctor to get a new handle on their condition. That's true for women who have diabetes and epilepsy as well as other issues. The health of the baby can be determined by the health of the mom, so this is a big priority for a high risk pregnancy.
6 Find A Support Group
This tip is mostly for moms who get a diagnosis of a birth defect or genetic condition for their little one. That news can be devastating, even if the diagnosis is something that the child can survive such as Down syndrome. The reality of the situation can be pretty daunting, and moms and dads have lots of questions. We recommend that they reach out to a support group and talk to other parents who have been through it before. Those parents can answer questions, offer advice and assuage fears. That can mean a lot for reducing stress and feeling a lot better about the pregnancy.
5 Trust Your Instincts
This bit of advice is for all moms — trust your instincts. Many women aren't sure of themselves when they are expecting their first little one, since they have never experienced any of this before. But even then, moms have instincts. We don't know where they come from, but somehow the connection between mother and child starts in the womb, and it could even save both their lives. If you have an inkling that something is wrong, go see the doctor. The mom knows more than anyone what is going on inside her body or with her baby after the birth. Whether she is pregnant with a baby with special needs or a normal pregnancy, the mom will forever be the baby's biggest advocate, and she should start that by trusting her instincts even before the birth.
4 Bed Rest Reality
Most women — even those with high risk pregnancies — can get through the nine months of having a baby on their feet. But for some, doctors recommend bed rest to ensure the health of the baby and the mother. There are various degrees of bed rest, and some are very strict, meaning that the mother is only allowed to get up to use the toilet and even showers are sparse. There are risks of bed rest, including blood clots, decreased bone mass and anxiety, but sometimes the reward of preventing premature labor or other complications are worth it. A mom-to-be should talk to the doctor about the limitations and accept help from family and friends to prepare for the baby. It can be a trying time, but it might give the baby the best chance at a healthy delivery.
3 Reconsider Your Birth Plan
The end of the pregnancy can be a very stressful time for a mom-to-be, and it might help if she prepares a birth plan. But in a high risk pregnancy especially, we stress the need for the mom to be flexible and listen closely to her doctor for his advice. Some conditions will make a C-section the best plan of action for the baby, if there is a birth defect or condition that makes a vaginal delivery a strain on the little one. Other conditions such as gestational diabetes have an increased risk of stillbirth the closer the delivery is to 40 weeks, so some doctors recommend induction if the mom hasn't gone into labor by 39 weeks. A mom with a high risk pregnancy may not have all of the options allotted to her that a normal pregnancy could allow, but she needs to keep in mind that the main object is the safe and healthy delivery of her baby and that is the thing that matters the most.
2 Prepare For A NICU Stay
Often, babies born in high end pregnancies are very healthy and ready to come home immediately. But many times, the baby needs some more time to develop and grow, which means that they might spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. This is especially true for babies with severe birth defects and those that are born early. Moms of multiples should probably prepare for a NICU stay as well. Some babies just need a few days of specialized care, while preemies can be in the hospital until they reach their date. At some hospitals mom can stay close by and even sleep in some rooms, or they can stay at a Ronald McDonald House nearby. If she is pumping, she can rent a hospital-grade breast pump and bring milk to the baby or babies several times a day. A long stay means she needs clothes and toiletries and such, as well as a lot of family support. It's a good idea to prepare yourself for a stay, and if you come home early, it would be a wonderful surprise.
1 Continue To Celebrate The Baby
A high risk pregnancy can take a toll on a mom-to-be. Between the appointments, the roller coaster of good and bad news, the medications and stress, it can be scary. Sometimes the baby is diagnosed with a condition that changes the parents' dreams. But we think that the most important and life-changing thing that a mom can do is to continue to celebrate the baby throughout the pregnancy. Every new life is something to celebrate, even in cases where mom and dad know that they won't have long. Love your baby and do all that you can for them. No matter the outcome, you won't regret it.