High risk pregnancies: What does this mean and what happens next?

3 minute read

A guide on high-risk pregnancies

Pregnancy can be a nerve-wracking journey and, for some, being told that you are “high-risk” can be an additional worry.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

Every pregnancy holds different risk factors, caused by many different reasons. High-risk pregnancy is a term used to describe when a pregnancy has an increased risk of complications during pregnancy or labour. It is estimated that approximately 10% of pregnancies are classed as high-risk.

What pregnancies are considered high-risk?

There are some features that automatically make your pregnancy high-risk, such as being pregnant with twins or triplets, or if you have a long-term health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or clotting/bleeding disorders.

However, there are also a whole host of criteria that doctors and midwives look for, both from your previous pregnancies (if applicable) and during your current pregnancy. Generally, if mothers have previously had a c-section in the past, or if they previously had pre-eclampsia or a previous stillbirth, they will be classed as high-risk for their next pregnancy.

Even if you have none of the above features, or if this is your first pregnancy, the doctors/midwives will want to consider the following:

  • If you have high blood pressure. This will be monitored throughout your pregnancy and you may become high risk later into your pregnancy if your blood pressure increases
  • If your BMI is high
  • If a scan shows that you have too much or too little water around your baby
  • If you develop an infection or anaemia
  • If you have a low-lying placenta
  • If you develop gestational diabetes

All of these features are likely to lead to a classification of high-risk pregnancy. However, this is a fluid concept which can change during your pregnancy. For example, you may be in good health and develop gestational diabetes at 28 weeks. This should turn your pregnancy into a high-risk pregnancy, even if you have no other problems or symptoms.

What treatment do I receive if I am high risk?

The treatment options for people who have high-risk pregnancies vary depending on the reasons that your pregnancy is high risk.

You will often be assigned a Consultant who will lead your care, as opposed to being managed by a midwife. It is likely that you will still see a midwife more than a Consultant, but there will be an oversight of the care that you are receiving and your condition as your baby grows.  You will also have some check-in conversations with the Consultant so they can advise you on the best way to keep your baby healthy and deliver them safely.

It is likely that you will have more appointments than a person with a low-risk pregnancy, however, the frequency and ‘type’ of appointments that you might have will differ depending on the reason for your high-risk categorisation. For example, people with gestational diabetes may be offered additional growth scans, whereas this may not be necessary for someone who has a low-lying placenta.

What can I do to avoid having a high-risk pregnancy?

Sometimes a high-risk pregnancy is unavoidable.  However, stopping smoking and drinking, ensuring that you maintain a healthy diet and keeping active are steps that some people take which may reduce the chances of having a high-risk pregnancy.

It is important to be honest with your doctor and midwife to enable them to help you take any precautionary measures to support you during your pregnancy.

Complications involving high-risk pregnancies

As established, mothers who are high-risk are more likely to experience complications. However, these can be mitigated through careful management. Should the management of your pregnancy fall below the reasonable standard and you or the baby suffer as a result, we can advise you.

Our medical negligence solicitors are birth injury claims experts.

Contact us today to find out more.

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