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    Pregnancy

    What is a High Risk Pregnancy: Causes, Types, Warning Signs & Management

    Written on 21 April 2022

    High-risk pregnancy sounds scary, but a detailed understanding of its causes, warning signs, types, and effective management can help to tackle it.

    People say pregnancy is the most beautiful phase in a woman's life. It not just brings about physical changes in a woman's body but is also said to cause emotional upheaval. The journey of 9 months is often marked by a multitude of challenges - be it physical or emotional. Some pregnancies are smooth and seem like a piece of cake, while some can be potentially risky.

    What is a high-risk pregnancy?

    A pregnancy characterised by potential danger to the mother, the unborn baby, or both is known as a high-risk pregnancy. This type of pregnancy requires medical supervision and monitoring throughout.

    However, that does not imply that all high-risk pregnancies are prone to problems or post-birth complications for babies or mothers. High-risk pregnancy suggests that the expectant mother and the baby are at a higher risk due to complications, and pregnancy could be a bumpy ride.

    People often ask if IVF pregnancies are high-risk. It sure does qualify as a high-risk pregnancy and requires close monitoring.

    Causes of high-risk pregnancy

    There are many causes of high-risk pregnancy, and it is vital to understand them. These include-

    • The age of the expectant mother
    • Existing health conditions
    • Lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, or substance abuse by an expectant mother
    • Pregnancy-related complications

    High-risk pregnancy age

    Age is an essential factor in deciding whether pregnancy could be a high-risk one. Women who get pregnant for the first time after they turn 35 are more likely to be prone to high-risk pregnancies. According to high-risk pregnancy ICD 10, women within the age bracket of 12-55 fall in the high-risk pregnancy bracket and are likely to contract more complications.

    Types of high-risk pregnancy

    It is disturbing for an expectant woman to fall into a high-risk pregnancy, as it can be pretty challenging. It is essential to discuss the various risks associated with it to manage it better.

    Placenta previa

    It is a condition where the placenta is low-lying or covers the cervix. There are chances of excessive bleeding during labour, classifying this health condition as a high-risk one for pregnant women. There may be bleeding during the second or third trimester, and doctors monitor the pregnancy closely. Sometimes pregnant women are advised complete bed rest to minimise the risk.

    Preterm labour

    Under normal circumstances, a pregnant woman completes the 37 weeks gestation period and goes into labour anytime after that. The baby is said to be full-term if it is born after 37 weeks of gestation. But if the woman experiences contractions before the 37th week of the pregnancy, it is termed premature labour. It could be because of a family history of preterm labour, carrying twins, abnormalities of the cervix, or excessive stress. A prominent symptom of going into preterm labour is bloody or watery discharge and recurring pain in the abdominal area.

    Gestational diabetes

    Sometimes the expectant mother does not have diabetes before conceiving but contracts gestational diabetes because the pancreas cannot produce sufficient insulin to counteract the pregnancy-induced hormones, which leads to higher blood sugar levels. This condition often subsides after delivery. However, it is crucial to monitor the pregnancy throughout and watch out for symptoms like frequent urination, increased water intake, and blurred vision. It is advisable to increase the intake of fibre-rich and low-sugar diets.

    Preeclampsia

    Sometimes a pregnancy falls under the high-risk category when there is a high protein buildup in the urine and blood pressure is constantly on a higher side. Protein in urine could be dangerous as it may cause blood clotting or impact the liver and kidney of the expectant mother. It is advisable to seek a gynaecologist's advice and regularly monitor one's blood pressure levels.

    Warning signs of high-risk pregnancy

    Sometimes the high-risk pregnancy symptoms do not show right away but can be dangerous. It is vital to keep track of the bodily changes and baby movements.

    Arias' Guide to High-Risk Pregnancy & Delivery (5th Edition) is a rather informative book for expectant mothers.

    A few of the common warning signs of high-risk pregnancy include:

    • Recurring abdominal pain
    • Fainting or passing out
    • Lingering fatigue and breathlessness
    • Unable to feel baby's movement
    • Intermittent fever
    • Palpitations, nausea, and headache that lasts beyond the first trimester
    • Vaginal discharge or spotting

    Management of high-risk pregnancy

    First and foremost, do not PANIC!

    A high-risk pregnancy does not mean a compulsive threat to the health of the mother and baby or that the baby will necessarily have congenital disabilities. However, after assessing a high-risk pregnancy, it does require regular medical check-ups, screenings for detection of any anomaly, close monitoring of symptoms, and most importantly, a healthy lifestyle and supportive family to relax the expectant mother.

    However, the following measures will help in effectively managing a high-risk pregnancy:

    • Regular tracking of blood sugar levels
    • Regular tracking of blood pressure
    • Apart from regular screenings, go for additional health screenings that may help detect any anomaly early on and can be managed.
    • Maintaining a chart of the symptoms and informing the gynaecologist immediately in case of any unexpected deviation from normal.
    • Giving complete rest to the body and mind and not taking on undue stress
    • Regular monitoring of thyroid levels because gestational thyroid is pretty standard.
    • Having a balanced and nutritious diet
    • Maintaining a healthy weight is very critical to avoid further complications. Watch your diet and weight to ensure safe delivery.
    • Full disclosure of health information to the gynaecologist to prevent any health risk
    • High-risk pregnancy and exercise go hand in hand. Mild exercises help keep the body healthy and in movement. However, any activity should be done after the doctor's approval.

    Conclusion

    Pregnancy marks the onset of a new life, new hopes, and new beginnings for the would-be parents. A mother feels a whirlwind of emotions in this roller coaster journey of 9 months and prepares herself for the impending motherhood. At the same time, these 9 months can be challenging and pretty stressful for the mother if the pregnancy classifies as a high-risk pregnancy. As mentioned above, watching out for the symptoms, monitoring the daily activities, and managing the pregnancy with a gynaecologist's help can help overcome the challenges posed by a high-risk pregnancy.

    However, the most important thing here is thinking positively and leading a stress-free life.

    Happy motherhood, Mama!

    References

    • Armando Fuentes.(October,2018). High Risk Pregnancy.https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/high-risk.html.kidshealth.
    • Cleveland Clinic medical professional.(December, 2021).High Risk Pregnancy.https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22190-high-risk-pregnancy..clevelandclinic.
    • Mayo Clinic Staff.(January, 2022). High Risk Pregnancy.https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/high-risk-pregnancy/art-20047012.mayoclinic.
    • Mary Anne Dunkin.(June, 2020). High Risk Pregnancy.https://www.webmd.com/baby/managing-a-high-risk-pregnancy.webmd.
    • Office of Communications.(January, 2017). High Risk Pregnancy.https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/high-risk.nichd.nih.
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