FAQs: High-risk pregnancies

Posted on 11 February 2015

If your doctor tells you your pregnancy is high risk, don’t be alarmed. It simply means you (or your baby) may have an increased chance of risk and your doctor just wants to make sure you get special attention during your pregnancy to keep you both safe. Dr Linnie Muller from the Panorama Fetal Medicine Centre answers your FAQs.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?
Bear in mind that being high risk doesn’t mean you or your baby will necessarily have problems, but we do want to keep an eye on you. In general, your pregnancy may be high risk if:
• You have a health problem such as diabetes, cancer, high-blood pressure, kidney disease or epilepsy. Other health conditions including heart-valve problems, asthma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can also make your pregnancy high risk.
• You use alcohol, illegal drugs or smoke.
• You’re younger than 17 or older than 35.
• You’re carrying more than one baby.
• You’ve had three or more miscarriages previously.
• Your baby has a genetic condition such as Down’s syndrome or a heart, lung or kidney problem.
• You’ve had a problem in a previous pregnancy, including pre-term labour, pre-eclampsia or seizures, or a baby with a genetic problem.

Be honest with your doctor and always give your full medical history.

How will my doctor care for me?
You’ll have more visits to your doctor and ultrasounds than a woman who has a low-risk pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are in good health and growing well. In addition, expect to have regular blood-pressure checks and urine tests to look for traces of protein (a sign of pre-eclampsia) and urinary tract infections. If you’re 35 years or older, you may need to have genetic tests done.

Discuss your birthing plan with your doctor, as he or she may have a preference as to where you should give birth. Sometimes this is necessary because your doctor may want you to have your baby in a hospital that offers special care.

What can I do to ensure a healthy pregnancy if I’m high risk?
As with any pregnancy you should aim to be as healthy as possible. Here’s how:
• Go to every doctor’s appointment and don’t miss any tests.
• Eat a healthy diet that includes protein, milk, milk products, fruits and vegetables.
• Take the medication your doctor prescribes but don’t take any vitamins or over-the-counter medicines without speaking to your doctor first.
• You must exercise – speak to your doctor about what exercises you can and can’t do.
• Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
• Try to avoid people who have colds and other infections.

What warning signs should I be aware of?
If you spot any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately:
• Any signs of pre-eclampsia, such as sudden swelling of your face, hands or feet, new vision problems (dimness or blurring), or a severe headache.
• Any unusual bleeding or discharge.
• Stomach pain or cramps, lower back pain or pelvic pressure that doesn’t go away.
• A fever.
• Regular contractions (with or without pain) for an hour.
• A sudden release of fluid.
• Your baby has stopped moving or is moving much less than normal.

Remember that these symptoms also apply to a low-risk pregnancy.

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Expertise

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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