Reproductive Health Center, Tucson, Arizona

What makes a pregnancy high risk?

What is a “high risk” pregnancy? – fertility clinic Glendale AZ area

Some pregnant women are told that their pregnancy is “high risk” by the medical professionals caring for them. Others may have heard this phrase and wondered what it means. What makes a pregnancy “high risk?”

Causes of high risk pregnancies

In general, there are a few categories of conditions that can make a pregnancy high risk. These include pre-existing medical conditions in the mother, medical conditions specific to pregnancy, age, and certain lifestyle choices of the mother.

Pre-existing medical conditions

There are certain medical conditions in the mother that can cause an increased risk of problems during the pregnancy. These include:

  • hormonal problems, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • diabetes (type 1 or 2)
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • heart or lung disease
  • thyroid disease
  • autoimmune disease
  • chronic infections, such as HIV
  • severe obesity

Women who have these conditions are often aware before they become pregnant that their pregnancy will be high risk. For our patients undergoing fertility treatment at our fertility clinic Glendale AZ area, we do our best to inform every woman about any conditions that may affect her pregnancy.

Infertility treatments themselves don’t automatically make a pregnancy high risk. However, some conditions associated with infertility treatment may also be associated with high risk pregnancies. Many women who undergo infertility treatment are older than 35, which makes a pregnancy high risk (see below). In addition, many of these women have medical conditions that cause them to have difficulty conceiving, and that may also make their pregnancies high risk.

Medical conditions of pregnancy

Women can also develop medical conditions during the pregnancy that cause a higher risk of complications. These include:

  • gestational diabetes
  • pre-eclampsia
  • multiple gestation

For our patients undergoing treatment with IVF, we are strongly committed to avoiding multiple gestation whenever possible. This is why we transfer as few embryos as we can.

Lifestyle of the mother

Certain lifestyle choices of the mother can have a serious impact on the pregnancy. These include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • drinking alcohol
  • marijuana smoking
  • use of other illicit substances

Most drugs pass through the placenta to affect the baby. This may cause problems with the placenta, the blood flow to the baby, or the baby’s development. The effects depend on which substance(s) the mother uses and how often. It’s very important to be completely honest with your doctor about any use of substances.

The only substances that are safe to use during pregnancy are medications that are prescribed by a doctor who knows that you’re pregnant.

Age of the mother

A pregnancy can also be considered high risk if the mother is:

  • 35 or older
  • under 17

A mother who is 35 or older and having her first pregnancy generally falls into the category of “advanced maternal age.” Studies have shown that these women are at an increased risk of having a baby with a genetic abnormality, although women undergoing fertility treatment may choose pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) to nearly eliminate this risk. In addition, older first-time mothers are more likely to have problems with the delivery, including excessive bleeding and failure to progress through labor.

On the other end of the spectrum, a mother who is under age 17 is at an increased risk for complications such as anemia, high blood pressure, and preterm labor. In addition, teen mothers are more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs during the pregnancy, and are less likely to keep their prenatal care appointments.

How are high risk pregnancies managed? – fertility clinic Glendale AZ area

A mother with a high risk pregnancy will be cared for by a specialist physician, to help ensure the best possible chance of a good outcome for both mother and baby. This is an OB/GYN who specializes in high risk pregnancies. You can get more information from this care provider about how high your risk is, and what you need to do to help reduce it.

Although the term “high risk” causes some women to feel anxious or fearful, there is reason for hope. With proper medical care and appropriate lifestyle changes, both you and your baby have an excellent chance of living a healthy life. For our patients at our fertility clinic Glendale AZ area, we encourage you to think positively and focus on the good things about starting your family. Your beautiful baby will soon be in your arms.

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