What Causes a High-Risk Pregnancy?

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Before you become pregnant, it is important for you to practice good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Good prenatal care and medical treatment during pregnancy can also help prevent complications. However, there are factors that may be present before you become pregnant that can cause a high-risk pregnancy, such as:

  • The age of the mother
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Having had problems in previous pregnancies
  • Pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or HIV

Health problems can also develop during a pregnancy that can make it high-risk, such as:

  • Preeclampsia is a syndrome that includes high blood pressure, urinary protein, and changes in blood levels of liver enzymes during pregnancy that can affect the mother’s kidneys, liver, and brain. With treatment, many women will have healthy babies. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal for the mother and/or the baby and can lead to long-term health problems. Eclampsia is a more severe form of preeclampsia that can cause seizures and coma in the mother.
  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If you get diabetes when you are pregnant, but never had it before, then you have gestational diabetes. You can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby by following the treatment plan established for you.
  • HIV/AIDS can kill or damage cells of your immune system, progressively destroying your body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers. Women can give HIV to their babies during pregnancy, while giving birth, or through breastfeeding, but there are effective ways to prevent the spread of mother-to-infant transmission of HIV.
  • Preterm Labor is labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Because the baby is not fully grown at this time, it may not be able to survive outside the womb. Your doctor will often take steps to try to stop labor if it occurs before 37 weeks.
  • Other medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart, breathing, or kidney problems can become more serious during a woman’s pregnancy. Regular prenatal care can help ensure a healthier pregnancy for a woman and her baby.

If you have concerns about your pregnancy, please share them with your doctor, who may refer you for an appointment at the Perinatal Center.

Source: National Institutes of Health

  • Last updated: 08/30/2012
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