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Overview of High-Risk Pregnancy


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy is one that has a greater chance of you or your baby becoming sick or dying. Problems can happen during the pregnancy, during delivery, or in the weeks after delivery.

  • Higher risk can come from many things, including medical problems you have and things you do while pregnant

  • Doctors watch high-risk pregnancies very carefully

  • If your pregnancy is considered high risk, you may be sent to a special doctor, clinic, or hospital

  • Getting medical care in the right place could save your life and your baby's life

What can make your pregnancy high risk?

Some of the common factors that make your pregnancy high risk include:

  • Age (girls 15 or under and women 35 or older are at higher risk)

  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs

  • Being very underweight or overweight

  • Having had problems during any previous pregnancy, such as having had a miscarriage or having had a baby born too early (premature) or too small

  • Having medical problems, particularly high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disorders, and sickle cell disease

  • Developing problems with your pregnancy, such as when your placenta grows in the wrong spot or comes loose too early—the placenta is a round, flat organ inside the womb that connects to the baby by the umbilical cord

  • Getting an infection during your pregnancy, including kidney infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and many others

  • Being pregnant with more than one baby, such as twins or triplets

What causes mothers to die?

Death rates from pregnancy are different around the world. In the United States, 28 women die for every 100,000 babies born. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the mother could have gotten medical care early in the pregnancy. The most common causes of death in mothers include:

  • Bleeding (hemorrhage)

  • Preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy)

  • Blood clots in the lungs

  • Infections

  • Complications of health problems that existed before you became pregnant

What causes babies to die?

Some common reasons babies can die before or right after birth include:

  • Being born too early (more than 3 weeks before the due date)

  • Birth defects

  • Infections

  • Problems with the placenta (the organ inside the uterus that carries nutrition and blood to the fetus)

  • Complications during birth, such as the baby not being able to breathe

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, the death of a healthy baby during sleep)

How do doctors tell if your pregnancy is high risk?

Doctors consider your pregnancy high risk if you:

How do doctors treat high-risk pregnancies?

Doctors will treat you and your pregnancy very carefully. You may need to see a special doctor or clinic that treats high-risk pregnancies. You'll probably have to see the doctor more often than women who aren't high risk. You may even need visits by a nurse at your home.

If you have a certain medical problem making your pregnancy high risk, doctors will treat that problem. You must be sure to take all the medicines your doctor prescribes and follow any special diet you're given.

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Abortion is defined as the intentional ending of a pregnancy by surgery or drugs. Which of the following statements about abortion in the United States is most accurate? 
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