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High Risk Pregnancy Care

A high-risk pregnancy is one of greater risk to the mother or her fetus than an uncomplicated pregnancy. Pregnancy places additional physical and emotional stress on a woman’s body. Health problems that occur before a woman becomes pregnant or during pregnancy may also increase the likelihood for a high-risk pregnancy. The NICHD is one of many federal agencies working to improve pregnancy outcome, prevent high-risk pregnancy, and improve health outcomes for pregnant women who are at high risk. The NICHD supports and conducts research on the causes and optimal management of the high-risk pregnancy.

Factors that put a pregnancy at Risk

High Blood Pressure

Even though high blood pressure can be risky for mother and fetus, many women with high blood pressure have healthy pregnancies and healthy children. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, however, can lead to damage to the mother’s kidneys and increases the risk for low birth weight or preeclampsia.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that can interfere with a woman’s ability to get and stay pregnant. PCOS may result in higher rates of miscarriage (the spontaneous loss of the fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy), gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature delivery.

Diabetes

It is important for women with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels before getting pregnant. High blood sugar levels can cause birth defects during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before women even know they are pregnant. Controlling blood sugar levels and taking a multivitamin with 40 micrograms of folic acid every day can help reduce this risk.

Kidney Disease

Women with kidney disease often have difficulty getting pregnant, and any pregnancy is at significant risk for miscarriage. Pregnant women with kidney disease require additional treatments, changes in diet and medication, and frequent visits to their health care provider.

Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases include conditions such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. Some autoimmune diseases can increase a women’s risk for problems during pregnancy. For example, lupus can increase the risk for preterm birth and stillbirth. Some women may find that their symptoms improve during pregnancy, while others experience flare ups and other challenges. Certain medications to treat autoimmune diseases may be harmful to the fetus as well.

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