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What is a High-Risk Pregnancy?

It can feel scary and overwhelming to be expecting or to be diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy. The good news is that going through a high-risk pregnancy does not necessarily mean you will experience any adverse outcomes.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A high-risk pregnancy is a pregnancy that requires additional monitoring because you or the baby are at added risk of health complications or have already developed unexpected pregnancy complications. It does not mean you are guaranteed to experience a loss or deliver preterm.

What are the risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy?

There are a vast range of reasons why your pregnancy may be considered high-risk. Some of these reasons include being under the age of 18 or over the age of 35 in the United States, being pregnant with twins or higher order multiple, or having a history of:

  • pregnancy complications
  • preterm birth
  • recurrent pregnancy loss
  • cancer
  • asthma
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • depression or anxiety
  • cardiovascular disease
  • blood disorders
  • thyroid disease
  • diabetes
  • autoimmune disease
  • delivering babies of low birth weight
  • delivering babies that are small for gestational age
  • stillbirth

Other factors hat are likely to qualify your pregnancy as high risk include living with existing pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, as well as living with PCOS, HIV/AIDS, or SARS-CoV-2. Recreational drug use, alcohol or tobacco use, or known congenital anomalies or genetic conditions also qualify for a high-risk pregnancy qualification.

The risk factor no one is talking about

The impact of chronic and traumatic stress. is a risk factor for pregnancy complications. that can affect you or the baby. Research has shown that a history of childhood trauma, chronic stress, and the traumatic stress you may be living with after medical or birth trauma can affect the health of your future pregnancies due to the changes in the neuro-endo-immune systems.

It is not surprising, then, that BIPOC people are at elevated risk of pregnancy complications when they are also at elevated risk of medical trauma and the stress of systemic racism.

When discussing stress at Ruvelle, we discuss it from a physiological standpoint. Specifically, we focus on changes in body systems that lay the groundwork for health issues such as pregnancy complications. We do not refer to stress in the outdated, inaccurate sense of it being a thought-based issue that improves by relaxing or calming down.

Varying risk factors mean varying treatment options

This is not a complete list of risk factors, but as you can see, the definition of a high-risk pregnancy is very vague. With the wide variety of risk factors that can qualify your pregnancy as high-risk, that means treatment options are just as unclear. For this reason, we recommend you schedule a preconception appointment with a perinatologist (high-risk OB) to review your specific risk factors before you are pregnant. If you are already pregnant, we strongly encourage you to have a transparent conversation with your trauma-informed provider on what exactly your treatment options are, why they are the best options for you, and what you can expect for the rest of your pregnancy.

You can influence the health of your pregnancy

Just because you’re expecting or experiencing a high-risk pregnancy does not mean you’re at the mercy of statistics. With a strong, genuinely trauma-informed care team, lifestyle changes, and a clear understanding of how you can impact your pregnancy health, you do have a chance at challenging medical odds. A high-risk pregnancy is not a given for adverse outcomes. You can help yourself have a healthy high-risk pregnancy. You’ll see how when you read Pregnancy Brain.

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