A high-risk pregnancy is one in which a woman and her fetus face a higher-than-normal chance of experiencing problems.

What's considered a high-risk pregnancy?

A "high-risk" pregnancy means a woman has one or more things that raise her — or her baby's — chances for health problems or preterm (early) delivery. A woman's pregnancy might be considered high risk if she: is age 17 or younger. is age 35 or older

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy threatens the health or life of the mother or her fetus. Some pregnancies become high risk as they progress, while some women are at increased risk for complications even before they get pregnant for a variety of reasons.

Risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy can include

Existing health conditions - such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or being HIV-positive.

Overweight and obesity - Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, neural tube defects, and cesarean delivery. NICHD researchers have found that obesity can raise infants' risk of heart problems at birth by 15%.

Multiple births - The risk of complications is higher in women carrying more than one fetus (twins and higher-order multiples). Common complications include preeclampsia, premature labor, and preterm birth. More than one-half of all twins and as many as 93% of triplets are born at less than 37 weeks gestation.

Young or old maternal age - Pregnancy in teens and women age 35 or older increases the risk for preeclampsia and gestational high blood pressure.

Women with high-risk pregnancies should receive care from a special team of healthcare providers to ensure the best possible outcomes.

What are some common complications of pregnancy?

Some women experience health problems during pregnancy. These complications can involve the mother's health, the fetus's health, or both. Even women who were healthy before getting pregnant can experience complications. These complications may make the pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy.

Getting early and regular prenatal care can help decrease the risk of problems by enabling healthcare providers to diagnose, treat, or manage conditions before they become serious. Prenatal care can also help identify mental health concerns related to pregnancy, such as anxiety and depression.

Some common complications of pregnancy include but are not limited to, the following

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Infections
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm Labor
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Pregnancy Loss/Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
Risk Factors for High-Risk Pregnancy - Physical Characteristics

The following characteristics of women affect risk during pregnancy.


About 13% of all pregnancies occur in adolescents. Adolescents are at increased risk of having the following:

  • Preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy)
  • Preterm labor
  • Anemia

Adolescents can have babies who are born underweight (small-for-gestational age). Part of the reason for these risks is that adolescents are less likely to get medical care during pregnancy. Thus, they may not understand what activities and behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and having sex without using a condom) can put their pregnancy at risk. Many adolescents smoke. They also have a higher risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. Using condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Women aged 35 and older are at increased risk of having the following:

  • A preexisting disorder that increases risk during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Problems related to the pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, and stillbirth
  • Complications during labor, such as difficult labor or a placenta that detaches too soon (placental abruption) or is mislocated (placenta previa)

Children of women aged 35 or older are more likely to have birth defects, such as heart defects. a narrowed esophagus (esophageal atresia), a defect of the urethra called hypospadias, or a defect of the skull called craniosynostosis.

As women age, genetic evaluation for chromosomal abnormalities becomes more important. In older pregnant women, ultrasonography may be done to help determine whether the fetus has birth defects,


Very thin women—with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 19.8 (see table Determining Body Mass Index)—or weigh less than 100 pounds before becoming pregnant are more likely to have small, underweight babies

Overweight women (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 before pregnancy) and obese women (with a BMI of more than 30) are more likely to have the following problems:

  • Very large babies (large-for-gestational age), which may be difficult to deliver
  • Babies who are born underweight (small-for-gestational age)
  • Babies with birth defects
  • Miscarriages and stillbirth
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure that first develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Preeclampsia (gestational hypertension accompanied by protein in the urine)
  • A pregnancy that lasts 42 weeks or longer (postterm pregnancy)
  • Need for a cesarean delivery


Women shorter than 5 feet are more likely to have a small pelvis, which may move the fetus through the pelvis and vagina (birth canal) difficult during labor. For example, the fetus's shoulder is more likely to lodge against the pubic bone. This complication is called shoulder dystocia. Also, short women are more likely to have preterm labor and a baby who is born underweight (small-for-gestational age).

Reproductive abnormalities

Structural abnormalities in the uterus or cervix increase the risk of the following:

  • A difficult labor
  • A miscarriage during the 2nd trimester and preterm labor
  • A fetus in an abnormal position
  • Preterm labor or a premature baby
  • Need for a cesarean delivery

Structural abnormalities include a double uterus, fibroids in the uterus, and a weak (incompetent) cervix (cervical insufficiency) that tends to open (dilate) as the fetus grows. Fibroids occasionally cause the placenta to be mislocated (called placenta previa), labor to begin too early (preterm labor), and miscarriages to occur. Cervical insufficiency increases the risk that a baby will be delivered too soon (preterm delivery).

Problems in a Previous Pregnancy

Women who have had a problem in one pregnancy are more likely to have a problem, often the same one, in subsequent pregnancies. Such problems include having had any of the following:

  • A premature baby
  • An underweight baby (small-for-gestational age)
  • A baby that weighed more than 10 pounds (large-for-gestational age)
  • A baby with birth defects
  • A previous miscarriage
  • A history of several pregnancy losses
  • A late (post term) delivery (after 42 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Rh incompatibility that required a blood transfusion to the fetus
  • Labor that required a cesarean delivery
  • A baby who died shortly before or after birth (stillbirth)
  • Too much amniotic fluid in the uterus (polyhydramnios)
  • Too little amniotic fluid in the uterus (oligohydramnios)
  • An abnormally located pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy)
  • A fetus in an abnormal position, such as buttocks first (breech)
  • A baby whose shoulder gets caught in the birth canal (shoulder dystocia)
  • A baby with an injury that stretched the nerves in the baby's shoulder (brachial plexus injury) during delivery
  • A previous pregnancy with more than one fetus (multiple births)
  • A seizure disorder
  • A baby with cerebral palsy

Women may have a condition that tends to make the same problem recur. For example, women with diabetes are more likely to have babies that weigh more than 10 pounds at birth.
Having had five or more pregnancies increases the risk of very rapid labor and excessive bleeding after delivery.

Having had twins or more fetuses in one pregnancy increases the risk of the following:

  • Underweight babies
  • Preterm (premature) delivery
  • A placenta that detaches too soon (placental abruption)
  • Birth defects
  • Stillbirth or death of the newborn
  • After delivery, vaginal bleeding in the mother

Disorders Present Before Pregnancy

Before becoming pregnant, women may have a disorder that can increase the risk of problems during pregnancy. These disorders include

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disorders
  • Kidney infections
  • Heart failure
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Problems with the fallopian tubes

Women who have one of these disorders should talk with a doctor and try to get in the best physical condition possible before they become pregnant. After they become pregnant, they may need special care, often from an interdisciplinary team.

Disorders During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a problem may occur or a disorder may develop to make the pregnancy high risk. Pregnancy complications are problems that occur during pregnancy. They may affect the woman, the fetus, or both and may occur at different times during the pregnancy. For example, complications such as a mislocated placenta (placenta previa) or premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus (placental abruption) can cause bleeding from the vagina during pregnancy. Women who have heavy bleeding are at risk of losing the baby or of going into shock and, if not promptly treated, of dying during labor and delivery.

Other pregnancy complications include

  • Problems with amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the fetus in the uterus)
  • A weak cervix (cervical insufficiency) that tends to open (dilate) as the fetus grows
  • An abnormally located pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy)
  • Severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum)
  • An infection of the tissues around the fetus, such as the amniotic fluid (intra-amniotic infection)
  • A previous miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy)
  • Rh incompatibility (when a pregnant woman has Rh-negative blood and the fetus has Rh-positive blood)

Exposures During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, being exposed to the following can increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect:

  • Certain infections
  • Certain drugs (such lithium, azithromycin, erythromycin, and antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • Radiation and certain chemicals (such as carbon monoxide, lead, gasoline, and mercury)

These substances and conditions are called teratogens. Birth defects are most likely to result if women are exposed to a teratogen 2 to 8 weeks after they become pregnant (4 to 10 weeks after their last menstrual period) because the fetus's organs are forming during this time. The risk of having a miscarriage is also increased.

Infections that are particularly dangerous during pregnancy include

  • Chickenpox
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes simplex
  • Rubella (German measles)
  • Syphilis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Infections with cytomegalovirus, coxsackievirus, or parvovirus B19
  • Zika virus infection

Drugs that may increase the risk of birth defects include

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Some prescription drugs (see table Some Drugs That Can Cause Problems During Pregnancy)

Exposure to high temperatures (for example, in a sauna) during the 1st trimester has been linked to the development of spina bifida.

Why Choose Us?

Jeevan Jyoti Hospital is having holistic approach of treatment of high-risk pregnancy with collaborative inter departmental management. All facilities required for managing High Pregnancy are available under one roof.