For most mothers expecting a baby, their pregnancy will be fairly straightforward without any complications. Many will go to full-term, giving birth to a healthy baby on or near their due date. However, not all pregnancies go to plan, with some women experiencing what doctors refer to as a high-risk pregnancy.
This type of pregnancy needs a greater level of attention and monitoring as there is an elevated risk of complications that can potentially threaten the health of both a mother and her baby, and the development of the baby after birth.
If you are planning a pregnancy or are indeed pregnant, and have a health issue that could be considered a potential risk (see below), be sure to consult with your GP or obstetrician so that you receive the right antenatal care, to ensure both the safe delivery of your baby and your health and wellbeing.
Factors that can make a pregnancy high risk
- Age. Women under age 17 or over age 35 when their baby is due are at greater risk of complications than those between their late teens and early 30s. The risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in a baby further increases after age 40.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. Diabetes, high blood pressure, lung, kidney, thyroid or heart problems, autoimmune disease and sexually transmitted diseases are conditions that can present risks for a mother and/or her unborn baby. A history of miscarriage, polycystic ovary syndrome, problems with previous pregnancies, or a family history of genetic disorders are also risk factors, as are being underweight or overweight.
If you have any of these medical conditions, it is important to schedule a pre-natal check-up with your doctor before you fall pregnant, as they will run tests, consider medications, or advise you of precautions you need to take to ensure the health of you and your baby.
Medical conditions that occur during pregnancy. Even if you are healthy when you become pregnant, it is possible to develop or be diagnosed with problems during pregnancy that can affect you and your baby. Three common pregnancy-related issues are:
- Gestational diabetes: Women with gestational diabetes – a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy – may have healthy pregnancies and babies if they are on the right treatment plan managed by their GP or health care provider. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery however women diagnosed with it are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes afterwards and need to make sure they are on the right medication to help prevent this.
- Preeclampsia: High blood pressure, increased protein in the urine, and swelling of the hands, feet, ankles and face are symptoms of preeclampsia, which can be dangerous or even fatal for the mother or baby if not treated properly. It can range from being mild to severe and usually happens late in pregnancy, though it can come earlier or just after delivery. Importantly, most women who develop preeclampsia end up having healthy babies.
- Being pregnant with multiple babies including twins or triplets, as this, depending on a mother’s health circumstances, can also contribute to a level of risk which needs to be managed appropriately.
- Lifestyle factors: Evidence shows that alcohol, tobacco and drug use can have a detrimental impact on the health and development of developing fetus. It is best to avoid use of all three before and during pregnancy.
Guest Author: Dr Ian Hill
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist – Royal Prince Alfred and Prince of Wales Hospitals
About Dr Ian Hill
Dr Ian Hill is an experienced obstetrician and gynaecologist practicing in the inner west and eastern suburbs of Sydney. He specialises in high-risk obstetrics, top level pre-, ante- and post-natal care, and routine gynaecology covering all aspects of women’s reproductive health. He has practices at both Royal Prince Alfred and Prince of Wales Private hospitals.
Phone: 02 9519 8929
*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored article.