Pregnancy | High Risk Pregnancy

Pregnancy & High-Risk Pregnancy in Los Angeles & Orange County, CA

Pregnancy is one of, if not the most, transformative time in anyone’s life. It’s exciting, unnerving, and at times, terrifying. Most pregnancies (>80%) follow a routine course; however, studies indicate that 10 to 20% of pregnancies can fall into a higher/high-risk category, with potential complications adding extra risk to the mother and child. 

Here, the expert team at AllSafe Medical Group discusses high-risk pregnancies, so you know exactly what to expect and how to handle a high-risk pregnancy.

What Is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy is where there are potential complications that could affect the mother, the baby, or both. At this stage, it’s essential to state that a high-risk pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean something will go wrong. It does, however, indicate that extra care is needed during the pregnancy to ensure the best outcome for both the mother and her unborn child.

What Can Cause a High-Risk Pregnancy?

There are various factors that can contribute to a pregnancy being deemed high-risk, ranging from maternal factors, fetal factors, and external or environmental factors. 

Maternal Factors

Maternal factors that can cause a high-risk pregnancy depend on the mother’s circumstances and medical history. Maternal factors that can contribute to the chances of, but not necessarily lead to, a high-risk pregnancy include:

Age

  • Teen Pregnancies. Teenagers and young mothers haven’t fully developed their anatomy or finished growing, which can possibly lead to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. 
  • Advanced Maternal Age. Women older than thirty-five have been shown to have an increased risk of complications. These include gestational diabetes, chromosome abnormalities, and high blood pressure.

Medical Conditions

  • Diabetes. Unmanaged diabetes can increase the risk of birth defects, preterm birth, and miscarriage. 
  • High Blood Pressure. The added stress high blood pressure puts on the mother’s kidneys can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Kidney Disease. Women with kidney disease can have babies with stunted growth rates, and also potentially face higher risk of premature birth.

Medical History

Past issues with miscarriages or preterm labor can increase the likelihood of them recurring in subsequent pregnancies.

Multiple Pregnancies

Carrying more than one baby (e.g., twins or triplets) increases the risk of premature birth, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Fetal Factors

Fetal Growth Restriction

Fetal growth restriction happens when the fetus doesn’t grow at the expected rate. It can be caused by maternal health issues, placental problems, or chromosomal abnormalities.

Congenital Abnormalities

Congenital abnormalities, or development problems, are issues that arise while the fetus is developing in the womb. They can be structural issues, such as heart defects, or functional issues, such as nervous system abnormalities.

External/Environmental Factors

Substance Use and Exposure to Harmful Toxins

  • Smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, certain birth defects, and even infant death.
  • Alcohol. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of disabilities for the baby. These are now medically referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Drug Use. Drug use or misuse of prescription drugs during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, birth defects, and infant withdrawal syndrome.
  • Chemical Exposure. Whether it’s from workplace environments or home treatments, certain chemicals, such as pesticides, heavy metals (e.g., lead), and cleaning solvents, can increase the chance of a high-risk pregnancy.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of High-Risk Pregnancy?

Many future mothers understand when something doesn’t feel right. As such, it’s essential you listen to your intuition and gut feelings during your pregnancy to help guide you during this exciting yet terrifying time. 

Again, these symptoms listed below are possible signs that something is potentially wrong. Our aim here is to give you the information you need and not to add extra stress and uncertainty. If you experience one of more of the following symptoms during pregnancy, we recommend contacting your doctor.

  • Unusual Fetal Movement. Either too much or too little movement can be indicative of potential problems.
  • Severe/Persistent Abdominal Pain. Pain can signal complications like ectopic pregnancy or placental issues.
  • Frequent and Severe Headaches. This concern could indicate high blood pressure. 
  • Changes in Vision. Blurred vision, temporary vision loss, or light sensitivity can be signs of high blood pressure.
  • Vaginal Bleeding: Especially in the second and third trimesters, vaginal bleeding could indicate placental problems.
  • Sudden Swelling. Swelling of the hands, feet, or face could be a symptom of preeclampsia.
  • High Fever. Persistent high fever can be a sign of an infection that could impact the pregnancy.
  • Breathing Issues. Persistent shortness of breath can indicate issues with the mother’s heart or lungs.
  • Burning During Urination. This concern might suggest a urinary tract infection, which can lead to kidney infections or premature labor if untreated.
  • Decreased Urination or Dark Urine. This concern could indicate dehydration or kidney issues.

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What Are Potential Complications of High-Risk Pregnancy?

High-risk pregnancies are associated with numerous potential complications. Preterm labor, which often leads to premature birth, happens when a mother goes into labor before thirty-seven weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely tend to face challenges, such as low birth weight, infection susceptibility and developmental delays.

Another serious complication is preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure in the mother, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and baby if untreated. Gestational diabetes is yet another concern. It happens when a mother without diabetes develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, potentially leading to larger babies and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. 

Last, high-risk pregnancies carry a higher possibility of heart-wrenching outcomes like miscarriage or stillbirth.

How Do Doctors Test and Screen for High-Risk Pregnancy?

There is a range of tests and screenings obstetricians and doctors use to identify and monitor high-risk pregnancies. These tests, when combined with regular prenatal check-ups, can help identify potential complications early, which gives the best chance of timely intervention and care.  

Ultrasounds

A common diagnostic tool, ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of the fetus inside the womb. This aids in detecting any abnormalities and monitoring the baby's growth.

Maternal Blood Testing

These tests can reveal essential information about the mother's health, including signs of anemia or infections, and can also indicate chromosomal abnormalities in the developing baby.

Amniocentesis and Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

Amniocentesis is a genetic disorder testing procedure that involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus using a thin needle. Similarly, CVS offers genetic insights, but instead tests the placenta.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT

NIPT tests for chromosomal concerns by analyzing fragments of fetal DNA present in the mother's blood.

What Are the Treatment and Management Options for High-Risk Pregnancy?

Navigating a high-risk pregnancy requires a blend of medical interventions, lifestyle adjustments, and specialized care. 

Doctors may prescribe medications to ward off preterm labor or regulate gestational diabetes. In some cases, injections to hasten fetal lung development are administered to reduce post-birth respiratory issues. 

Diet and nutrition play a pivotal role, with specific guidelines sometimes given for conditions like gestational diabetes. While maintaining activity is crucial, exercise recommendations are often tailored to ensure safety. Techniques, such as meditation or prenatal yoga, can aid in managing stress. 

Finally, high-risk pregnancies often require consultations with specialists, such as perinatologists, alongside enhanced fetal monitoring. When considering delivery, the choice between a C-section and vaginal birth hinges on the specific risks involved, and induced labor may be considered to mitigate potential complications.

How Can I Minimize the Chances of High-Risk Pregnancy?

Minimizing the chances of a high-risk pregnancy can depend on proactive health measures and lifestyle choices. 

As mentioned earlier, regular health check-ups are essential as they allow early detection and management of potential complications. 

Actively managing pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can also significantly reduce associated pregnancy risks. 

Taking prenatal vitamins, particularly folic acid, can prevent certain birth defects and bolster overall fetal health. 

Finally, and very importantly, curtailing or eliminating harmful behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, is crucial as these habits can adversely affect fetal development and pregnancy outcomes.

High-Risk Pregnancy Management in Los Angeles & Orange County, CA with AllSafe Medical Group

Any pregnancy is an exciting yet terrifying time for any mother and significant other. That is why managing high-risk pregnancies comes from a combined effort of the mother, her doctors, and other individuals supporting the mother during her pregnancy. 

The saying “prevention is better than cure” couldn’t be more relevant than to high-risk pregnancies—what doctors don’t know, they can’t manage. This is why proper screening and testing during any pregnancy gives patients the best chance at enjoying a successful pregnancy, even if they are in a higher-risk category. 

Contact the expert team of surgeons and mothers at AllSafe Medical Group to find out how they can help you along your journey toward a safe, uneventful pregnancy and birth, through a personal one-to-one consultation by booking online.

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