What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A pregnancy is considered high-risk when the mother suffers from a chronic disease or when there are certain complications.

High-risk pregnancies can require constant monitoring and special care. Any problems that come up could be minor, but if they are more serious, they could endanger the lives of both the mother and baby.

The most common causes of a high-risk pregnancy are:

  • Medical history: you have had abortions or problems with previous pregnancies, you gave birth prematurely or to a baby with a low weight, you had a C-section or you have a family history of genetic diseases;
  • You suffer from chronic conditions such as: anaemia, hypertension, epilepsy, HIV, AIDS, lupus, obesity, thyroid diseases, type 1 or 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues;
  • You’re having a difficult pregnancy, with complications such as: uterus, cervix or placenta infections, toxic pregnancy, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, too much or too little amniotic fluid, intrauterine growth restriction or Rh immunisation (this occurs when the mother has Rh negative blood and the baby Rh positive);
  • You’re having a multiple pregnancy;
  • You’re having a prolonged pregnancy that has exceeded 42 weeks;
  • You’re over the age of 35;
  • You are addicted to smoking, alcohol or drugs.

Special tests for high-risk pregnancies

If your doctor has diagnosed you with a high-risk pregnancy besides routine tests and investigations, he or she may also recommend the following:

  • Amniocentesis: involves the collection of a small amount of amniotic fluid and it detects genetic abnormalities, malformations or infections;
  • Chorionic villus sampling: involves collecting a fragment from the placenta and it is used to detect chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome;
  • Cordocentesis: it’s a test by which the doctor collects blood from the umbilical cord. The cordocentesis helps diagnose chromosomal abnormalities, coagulation disorders or infections;
  • Foetal fibronectin test. This is a protein that has the role of attaching the placenta to the uterine membrane. The test assesses the risk of premature birth and it’s recommended that it’s combined with measuring the length of the cervix;
  • Biophysical profile is a test that combines foetal heart rate monitoring and the foetal ultrasound.