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What's a "High-Risk" Pregnancy?

What Does "High-Risk" Pregnancy Mean?

A "high-risk" pregnancy means a woman has one or more things that raise her — or her baby's — chances for health problems or preterm (early) delivery.

A woman's pregnancy might be considered high risk if she:

  • is age 17 or younger
  • is age 35 or older
  • was underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant
  • is pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • has high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, or another health problem
  • had problems with a previous pregnancy, including premature labor or having a child with a genetic problem or birth defect

Smoking, taking illegal drugs, and drinking alcohol also can cause health problems for a pregnant woman and her baby.

If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, it's important to work with your doctor or care team to get any health problems that can be managed under control.

Other important tips for a healthy pregnancy include:

  • See your doctor early in and throughout your pregnancy for prenatal care.
  • Eat a healthy diet (getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, etc.) and exercise if your doctor says it's OK.
  • Gain a healthy amount of weight (not too much or too little).
  • Protect yourself from infections (including Zika). Wash your hands well and often; do not eat raw meat, fish, or unpasteurized cheese; and get any immunizations your doctor recommends.
  • Don't have unprotected sex with a partner whose sexual history is unknown to you or who may have an STD. If you become infected, the disease may be passed to your baby, with potentially dangerous results.
  • Reduce stress in your life.

Reviewed by: Thinh Phu Nguyen, MD
Date Reviewed: 20-07-2022

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The five differences are:
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