What does high-risk pregnancy mean?
Kathleen Walker, is senior nursing director, Women's, Infants and Neonatal Intensive Care, Banner Desert Medical Center.
Question: What is considered a high risk pregnancy and what can a woman do to protect her health and the baby’s?
Answer: There are many reasons a woman’s pregnancy is considered high risk.
Sometimes it has to do with the woman’s health, and sometimes it has to do with the baby’s health. This is why it is absolutely critical for a woman to begin prenatal care as early as possible in her pregnancy. Some high-risk factors are multiples (twins, triplets, etc.); women who are over age 40; women who have had past difficult pregnancies; and women who have a chronic illness. Other high risk factors, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, placenta previa or toxemia, may develop later in the pregnancy. Health or developmental problems with the baby, such as a heart defect, immature lung development, or low birth weight, also indicate a high-risk pregnancy.
Women who are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy should follow their doctor’s advice carefully. Some may only require close monitoring through frequent medical check ups, while others could be put on bed rest, or even hospitalized. Because of Banner Desert Medical Center’s Level III designation for obstetric, perinatal and neonatal services, we are able to care for high-risk mothers and critically ill or premature babies, which enables mom and baby to stay at the same hospital. We offer the East Valley’s only Level III inpatient antepartum unit dedicated to caring for the needs of women during a high-risk pregnancy. The unit offers specialized care for women with diabetes, pre-term labor, multiple births and other special needs.
No one wants to experience a high-risk pregnancy, but if you do, make sure you talk to your doctor about having access to a team of skilled physicians and specialists, including: Perinatologists, specialists in maternal and fetal health; Neonatologists, specialists in the care of high-risk newborns; OB anesthesiologists, specialists who provide anesthesia and pain management to women giving birth; and skilled obstetrical and neonatal intensive care nurses.