A high risk pregnancy is one that puts the mother, baby, or both at risk throughout pregnancy and the delivery. There are four risk categories that make a pregnancy high risk. These include existing health conditions, maternal age, lifestyle factors, and conditions of pregnancy.
Your doctor may provide care for a high risk pregnancy, or you might need to be referred to an additional specialist for some conditions and procedures. Once your pregnancy has been classified as high risk, it is important to make sure that you get all of the necessary care to protect your health and that of your unborn baby.
What High Risk Pregnancy Care Entails
High risk pregnancy care includes specialty and targeted fetal ultrasounds to monitor fetal growth and check for anatomical abnormalities. An amniocentesis may be performed in order to collect fetal cells and send them for laboratory testing. This procedure involves using ultrasound imagery to guide a long, thin needle into the uterus through your abdomen. A small amount of the amniotic fluid is removed, which your body then replaces naturally.
Chorionic villus sampling may also be performed as a part of high risk pregnancy care. This test is performed at 10 to 12 weeks gestation to check for genetic abnormalities. You may also need a percutaneous umbilical blood sampling procedure. This is done in order to identify chromosomal and blood disorders in a fetus.
Your doctor might also do a cervical length measurement to make sure that your cervix is strong and long enough to keep the amniotic sac intact as your pregnancy progresses.
Do I Need High Risk Pregnancy Care?
High risk pregnancy care may be needed when you are carrying more than one baby, especially if you used in-vitro fertilization and had several embryos implanted. If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or an autoimmune disease, your doctor may recommend this level of care. Obesity is also a condition that necessitates high risk pregnancy care. Women with gestational diabetes, or who already had diabetes before becoming pregnancy, may also need extra care during their pregnancies—especially during the last trimester.
If you have had a past C-section, stillbirth, placental abruption, incompetent cervix, or Rh sensitization, these conditions may require high risk pregnancy care. Other conditions that may necessitate high risk pregnancy care include too little or too much amniotic fluid and restricted fetal growth.
Additionally, you may be a candidate for high risk pregnancy care if you are younger than 18 years or older than 35 years (also known as advanced maternal age). The use of tobacco and alcohol also requires that you receive specialized care. Some women develop preeclampsia or eclampsia during pregnancy, and are then candidates for high risk care.
Finally, if you have any sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, or herpes, you may require high risk pregnancy care.
Based on your pregnancy and health throughout your prenatal visits, your doctor will determine whether or not you require an extra level of pregnancy care or the care of additional specialists.