Planning for a High-Risk Pregnancy

Dr. Paul MacKoul, MD

April 10, 2023


Pregnant women are often concerned about the health of their unborn babies. But a high-risk pregnancy doesn’t have to be scary or stressful.

Many high-risk pregnancies can be managed successfully by getting good prenatal care. That means being in touch with your healthcare provider and making healthy lifestyle changes.

Preconception Counseling

Preconception counseling is an important step in the prenatal care process. It aims to improve maternal, fetal, and neonatal health by optimizing and reducing the risk of poor perinatal outcomes.

As a part of this process, a woman will have an exam with a physician or midwife. She will discuss her medical history, lifestyle habits, medications, and any family history of pregnancy problems. Women may also be screened for genetic conditions.

Preconception counseling aims to help prepare the couple for a healthy pregnancy. It is a key component in improving perinatal outcomes and can reduce the chances of pregnancy-related complications, including preterm birth and low birth weight.

We encourage all women to take advantage of our counseling before attempting to conceive. This can be particularly beneficial for women with chronic illnesses or health concerns.

Pregnancy Testing

Pregnancy testing can help you confirm pregnancy and get answers to questions about your health. You can take a urine or blood test at home, your healthcare provider’s office, or at a local health center.

Some tests are available for free through your ob-gyn. Others are available at certain health centers for a small fee.

One of the most common tests is a urine pregnancy test that can show you are pregnant as soon as four to five days before your period starts. These tests are also called “early results” and are sensitive to a hormone in your body that signals ovulation.

Other tests are used to check for certain infections and to determine your blood type and Rh factor (a protein that helps keep red blood cells from mixing). These tests can identify several problems that may increase your risk of pregnancy complications. They can also help your provider plan your care.

Lifestyle Changes

Almost every woman-to-be hopes for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. But sometimes, health problems develop during pregnancy, which makes it a high-risk situation for the mom or baby.

Existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and diseases like kidney disease, autoimmune disease, and thyroid disease, can all increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. Additionally, women who haven’t previously had diabetes can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Doctors often meet more frequently with women experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, which can help them detect any problems early. They also monitor pregnant women for conditions that can lead to preterm labor or birth, such as eclampsia and twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. In these cases, doctors may refer women to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or genetic counselor. This can help women understand their risks and support them throughout their pregnancy. Ultimately, most women deemed high-risk go on to have problem-free pregnancies and healthy babies.

Pregnancy Support

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be a difficult experience. For some women, pregnancy is a high-risk situation that requires extra medical care before, during, and after the birth of their child.

If you are pregnant and find out that you are high-risk, your doctor will refer you to a specialist who can help you manage your health and your baby’s development. This is done to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby.

In addition to a general OB/GYN, you may need to work with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or a cardiology specialist who can treat heart problems during your pregnancy. These specialists will help monitor your health and your baby’s development throughout your pregnancy.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialists can also help you plan your labor and delivery. They can provide guidance and support in various situations, including preterm labor, cesarean section, premature delivery, low birth weight babies, and pregnancies that result in a newborn with a medical condition such as HELLP syndrome (preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction, and recurrent miscarriage). These doctors can also offer obstetrical ultrasounds, fetoscopy, neonatal monitoring, and other services to help keep you and your baby safe.