What conditions may lead to a high-risk pregnancy?
The following list represents the most common conditions that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy, but note that not all women with these conditions will have a high-risk pregnancy.
- If you have diabetes before you become pregnant, you will likely be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to monitor your condition and determine the proper medications. Preconception counseling is ideal. Developing diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) is very common, and your obstetric provider will likely be able to care for you without a maternal-fetal medicine consult. If a maternal-fetal medicine specialist is consulted for gestational diabetes, he or she will follow your baby’s growth and well-being, and manage your health with nutrition counseling, glucose monitoring and, possibly, medications.
- Pre-eclampsia is a condition unique to pregnancy where you have high blood pressure in conjunction with protein in your urine and edema (swelling of the skin). In some women with pre-eclampsia, liver or platelet abnormalities are present. You may be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist depending on the severity of your disease or if you are preterm. “The only treatment for pre-eclampsia is delivering your baby,” explains Henderson, “so this is a condition that requires very close monitoring to balance maternal complications against the risks of delivering your baby early.”
- If you have hypertension before pregnancy, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist will monitor your baby’s growth and may be consulted if problems arise. Some medications commonly used outside of pregnancy to treat hypertension are contraindicated in pregnancy.
- Multiples Pregnancies with twins or higher order pregnancies have a greater risk of complications. Women with multiple pregnancies are more likely to develop pre-eclampsia or go into preterm labor. Twin pregnancies have a higher risk of fetal anomalies and growth problems, especially if they share a placenta. If you have a multiple pregnancy, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist will closely monitor the pregnancy by performing additional ultrasounds. The maternal-fetal medicine specialist will recommend how and when your babies should be delivered. “If you remain healthy and the growth of your babies is normal and without complications, you may continue to see your Ob/Gyn,” says Henderson, “or you may prefer to be seen in a specialty multiples clinic.”
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) In general, your obstetric provider can treat you for sexually transmitted diseases that may occur during pregnancy or if there is a pre-existing STD, such as herpes. In certain cases, consultation with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist will be required. For example, if you are being treated for syphilis and an ultrasound shows that your fetus may be affected, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist will provide further care and management. Women with HIV are also generally cared for by maternal-fetal medicine specialists because the medication regimens are complex.
- Women who are obese have a greater risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. “Obesity is the one of the only health conditions affecting pregnant women that can be changed before pregnancy, which is why maternal-fetal medicine specialists encourage women to lose weight through healthy strategies,” explains Henderson. “The Johns Hopkins Nutrition in Pregnancy Clinic works with obese women during pregnancy to optimize the health of mothers and their babies.”
Q: Will all my future pregnancies be high risk?
A: Having one high-risk pregnancy does not mean that all your future pregnancies will be deemed high risk as well. You may have a fetal complication occur in one pregnancy that wouldn’t in another, and certain health conditions may change over time.
However, if you have had a pregnancy that ended in preterm delivery, you are at greater risk of having preterm labor during your next pregnancy. If this occurs, your obstetric provider will manage your pregnancy using medication, and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist will monitor your cervical length with ultrasound surveillance.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about having a high-risk pregnancy is that your maternal-fetal medicine specialist and Ob/Gyn have the knowledge and experience required to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Dr.Ruchi Tandon is a Gynecologist practicing in leading maternity hospitals of South Delhi namely, Max Smart superspeciality hospital, saket, Apollo cradle Royale to name a few. She is well versed, amicable and approachable. High risk pregnancy management is her forte.