High-Risk Pregnancy
High-Risk Pregnancy

Most pregnancies are straightforward; however, a minority of women experience high-risk pregnancies. ELEANOR FITZSIMONS provides advice on how to cope with a complicated pregnancy.

Allowing for the discomfort of morning sickness, fatigue, heartburn, backache and swollen ankles, most pregnancies and births are perfectly straightforward. Spare a thought, therefore, for expectant mothers whose pregnancies are labelled ‘high-risk’ due to pre-existing conditions or complicating factors that arise during pregnancy.

A pregnancy is generally categorised as high-risk in order to allow medical professionals to monitor progress and intervene if necessary. Risks include age, previous birth experiences and underlying medical conditions. The common factor in each case is that mother, baby, or both, are at increased risk of complications during pregnancy, birth and the period directly afterwards.

What constitutes high risk?

  • Longstanding medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, TB, Crohn’s disease, lupus, asthma, AIDS or a seizure disorder. 
  • The expectant mother is aged under 15 or over 35, although the latter is increasingly common. Older mothers have a measurably higher risk of miscarriage, birth defects, complications and Caesarean section (C-section) delivery.
  • The expectant mother is significantly overweight or underweight. Obese women are more likely to develop diabetes or hypertension, or require a C-section.
  • Multiple pregnancies are automatically classified as high-risk.
  • Gestational diabetes.
  • Premature labour.
  • A history of pregnancy complications in the mother’s health (pre-eclampsia for example) or in the health of her infant (stillbirth, a premature baby or a baby born with a birth defect such as a heart problem or genetic condition).
  • During pregnancy, the expectant mother suffers from conditions such as vaginal or cervical infections or undergoes emergency surgery such as for appendicitis.
  • The baby is exposed to infection including mumps and rubella, or to damaging substances or medications.
  • Prenatal tests indicate that the baby has a serious health problem.

 

Tips on coping with a high-risk pregnancy

  • Seek medical advice as soon as you realise that you are pregnant. Every major maternity hospital in Ireland has a specialist unit for high-risk pregnancies.
  • Keep yourself informed as to the likely consequences and interventions related to your condition. Websites like www.keepemcookin.com are helpful.
  • Network with other mums and mums-to-be who have had similar experiences. Rollercoaster.ie is an online community of mums and mums-to-be.

In many instances, such as diabetes, your diet will be restricted. Follow your doctor’s advice closely. Pre-conception nutrition to prepare your body for pregnancy is often recommended, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and diet.