Expecting a child can be one of the most exciting times in a woman's life. She'll think of baby names, decorate the nursery and imagine what her child might one day grow up to be. But for women experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, it can also be an especially challenging time.
With a high-risk pregnancy, moms and babies are at greater risk for complications. Some women are more likely to experience a high-risk pregnancy than others, including adolescents and women over the age of 35, those who've had complications in previous pregnancies and those with preexisting conditions, such as high blood pressure, lupus and kidney disorders.
In other cases, high-risk conditions may seemingly arise out of nowhere. Whatever the cause, high-risk pregnancies can be very serious and require specialized care and frequent monitoring.
One of the most common conditions pregnant women face is preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure and can affect both mom and baby. It occurs in about 7 percent of all pregnancies and is a leading cause of hospitalization and maternal death. Unfortunately, the only "cure" for preeclampsia is delivery. Early detection can help manage the condition, so it is important for pregnant women to see their physician regularly for prenatal care.
Another common complication in high-risk pregnancies is preterm labor. Women with preeclampsia, those who are pregnant with multiples, and those who have experienced early labor in previous pregnancies are at greater risk, but it can also occur in women with no known risk factors. Preterm labor can be very difficult to predict, so it is important for patients to learn the early warning signs, such as back pain and increased pelvic pressure. When patients feel they might be experiencing the symptoms of early labor, it is important to seek help immediately. Babies born before 37 weeks can face a multitude of health problems, but treatments are available to help delay labor.
As with many health issues, the best treatment is prevention. If you're considering expanding your family, there's no better time to focus on improving your health and well being. Obesity is closely tied to hypertension, so visit your doctor to determine your healthy weight and, if necessary, develop a plan to get your weight under control.
Good cardiovascular health might not prevent all complications, but healthier patients typically bounce back more quickly. Women who are trying to conceive should also take a folic acid supplement. One milligram a day can greatly reduce the risk of birth defects including spina bifida.
With close monitoring and proper treatment, women facing a high-risk pregnancy can increase their chances of a good outcome, resulting in a healthy mom and healthy baby.