Authored by Revere Health

High-Risk Pregnancy: Risk Factors and Prevention

June 20, 2018 | OB/GYNValue-Based Care

A pregnancy is considered high risk if there are complications that could affect the health of the mother or baby before, during or after delivery. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, it’s important to understand what that means and how you can manage it.

Who is at risk of a high-risk pregnancy?

Multiple factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, can influence a mother’s likelihood of a high-risk pregnancy. These factors include:

Maternal age: Many people know that the older a woman is, the more difficult her pregnancy can be. Mothers over age 35 tend to have greater risks of complications, but a maternal age below 17 can pose health risks too.

Pre-existing health conditions: A medical history of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, sexually transmitted infections, asthma, chronic infections and other conditions can affect the health of a pregnancy. Additionally, a family history of genetic disorders or previous miscarriage may increase a woman’s risk of complications during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about your current health status and create a plan to ensure that your current conditions are managed well in order to prevent complications.

Lifestyle choices: Lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol consumption or drug use can be damaging to the health of both the mother and her baby. Use of these substances during pregnancy has been linked to problems including:

  • Preterm labor and a low birth weight
  • An increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Physical, behavioral, intellectual and learning disabilities
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Birth defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Fetal growth problems
  • Still birth

The good news is these problems are preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy. If it is difficult for you to stop drinking, smoking or using drugs, talk to your doctor or seek support.

Surgical history: Women who have had certain surgeries, including C-sections and abdominal surgeries, can increase their risk of a high-risk pregnancy.

Medical problems during pregnancy: Some women may develop conditions during pregnancy that they did not have before becoming pregnant, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.]

How to prevent complications during pregnancy

Although not all high-risk pregnancies are preventable, it’s important to take proper steps to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. This not only protects the health of you and your baby but also your wallet. In fact, a study comparing the total cost of prenatal care, labor, delivery and postnatal care for high-risk and low-risk pregnancies found that high-risk pregnancies cost nearly twice as much as low-risk pregnancies.

Prevent complications and unnecessary medical costs with these tips:

Schedule a preconception appointment: If you are trying to conceive, schedule an appointment with your doctor. A preconception appointment can help you and your doctor determine what you need to do promote a healthy pregnancy (taking prenatal vitamins, for example) and make a plan to get your risk factors under control if present.

Establish weight benchmarks: Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can increase your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, which is dangerous for both you and your baby. Your target weight depends on how much you weighed before becoming pregnant.

Watch your diet: Women have more nutritional needs while pregnant and should consume foods and vitamins that provide folic acid, protein, calcium and iron. Eating a healthy diet also helps prevent weight gain-related complications during pregnancy.

Be active: Physical activity has been shown to reduce a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes and symptoms of cramping, bloating and backaches.Talk to your doctor about how physically active you should be while pregnant.

Don’t skip prenatal appointments: Regular prenatal visits with a healthcare provider allows for careful monitoring of your and your baby’s health. Your doctor may also be able to detect potential complications and help you manage them before they become a problem.

Healthy habits are especially important during pregnancy. If you have questions about pregnancy health, contact your doctor.


Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.



“Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs, and Pregnancy.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“High-Risk Pregnancy: What to Expect.” Mayo Clinic.

“Managing a High-Risk Pregnancy.” WebMD.

“The Economic Impact of High-Risk Pregnancies.” US National Library of Medicine.

“Health Tips for Pregnant Women.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.