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High-Risk Pregnancies: Who’s at Risk and How To Deal

High Risk Pregnancy

"Prenatal care is usually 'one size fits all' with every woman receiving the same type of prenatal care," says Erin A.S. Clark, MD, OB-GYN, maternal fetal medicine at University of Utah Health. "But personalized prenatal care is about making medical [treatment] specific to each person. High-risk women with pregnancy complications need extra prenatal care." Here are four high-risk situations, and advice on how to make pregnancy and delivery as smooth as possible.



More than half of pregnant women in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obesity poses a serious risk to you and your unborn child because it increases the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, neural tube defects, stillbirth and cesarean delivery. Maternal obesity can raise a newborn's risk of heart problems by 15%, according to research by the National Institutes of Health and the New York State Department of Health. For morbidly obese women, that risk rises to 33%.

Dr. Clark's Advice

Maintain or achieve a normal weight before pregnancy. Overweight and underweight women have an increased risk of premature labor, among other complications. Ideally, your body mass index should be between 18.5 and 24.9 when you get pregnant. If you are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss may improve your chances of a safe delivery.



Smoking while pregnant has been linked to miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects and infant death. According to the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System, 10.7% of women reported smoking in their final three months of pregnancy. The data also show that 54% of pregnant women quit while carrying a child.

Dr. Clark's Advice

It's not rocket science: Quit immediately. Smoking affects your baby's growth and increases your risk of delivering early. It's recommended that you quit smoking before becoming pregnant to decrease your chances of relapse while carrying your baby.


Previous Miscarriage

If you have had three or more miscarriages, your current pregnancy will be considered high risk and your doctor will watch you more closely. You're also at risk if you experienced preterm labor during an earlier pregnancy. Premature babies are more susceptible to short- and long-term complications.

Dr. Clark's Advice

If you have miscarried in the past, wait at least 18 months between pregnancies. This allows time for your body to heal and reduces the risk of pregnancy complications. If you have had a preterm birth in the past, you are at increased risk in the future, so ensure you work with your specialist.


Existing Health Conditions

Health conditions that can seriously harm your unborn child include cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, epilepsy and high blood pressure, plus infections such as HIV. Certain medications, such as lithium, also present a significant problem.

Dr. Clark's Advice

Before attempting to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about any health problems you have or have had. If your condition is manageable, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, make sure it is well under control before conceiving.


Our Doctors Await Your Visit

See your doctor before you get pregnant to discuss ways to avoid potential complications. Maternal fetal medicine physicians specialize in high-risk pregnancies. A face-to-face consultation with a doctor will give you specific information on how to increase your chance for a safe, worry-free pregnancy.