By Neus Ferrando Gilabert BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 05/21/2014

By high-risk pregnancy we mean the mother, the foetus or both are likely to suffer some type of complication both during the period of gestation and labour, even their lives are in danger.

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

Risk factors

Some of the risk factors which lead to these problems during gestation may be:

  • multiple pregnancies
  • advanced maternal age or teenage pregnancy
  • history of high-risk pregnancies
  • women who suffer from some type of chronic disease
  • obesity

Causes

The high-risk pregnancy usually happens in women who suffer from some type of disease prior to get pregnant, or in women who develop it during pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes).

These diseases are usually:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Infections (cytomegalovirus, rubella, chickenpox, toxoplasma…)
  • Uterine anomalies
  • Placenta previa

Hence the importance of going to the specialist before getting pregnant whether the woman suffers from some type of disease. He will monitor medications (if necessary) during the gestation period and will give us guidelines to follow during the period.

Recommendations

Some of the points to bear in mind in an high-risk pregnancy are an exhaustive medical control and the labour planning:

An exhaustive medical control
women who have this type of pregnancy need an exhaustive and continued medical control. Prenatal check-ups, more ultrasounds than in a conventional pregnancy, analysis etc., must be performed. Today, technology facilitates considerably to control the condition of the fetus and the mother thanks to 4D ultrasounds for example, or to Doppler studies which allow to monitor in depth the baby’s condition.
Labour planning
the time of labour must be planned, although this does not mean that it will be necessarily via caesarean section, what is certain is that it must be an induced and controlled labour at all times.

The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other type of drugs may complicate the pregnancy until it turns into a high-risk pregnancy causing, moreover, serious damage to the fetus.

Parents who are facing this situation need in many occasions psychological support, since what must have been a great moment in their lives has become a source of concern and uncertainty that may create a state of nerves and anxiety both in the mother and the father.

The woman will need a higher degree of attention and support both from her partner and the doctor, with whom is preferable to establish a relationship of trust.

Some specialists ensure that it is helpful to speak with other parents who have experienced the same situation when facing a high-risk pregnancy.

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Authors and contributors

 Neus Ferrando Gilabert
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH). Experience managing Embryology and Andrology Labs at Centro Médico Manzanera (Logroño, Spain). More information
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