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Your Pregnancy Is High-Risk. Now What?

Pregnancy Journal

It would be great if there was no need to write about this topic.

But the truth is that many families, at one point or another, find themselves in the office of a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist after hearing the term “high-risk.” If that’s you or a loved one, you may be feeling scared, confused, nervous or all of the above.

The following information is aimed at giving you a better idea of what to expect if you or someone close to you has a pregnancy requiring careful monitoring.
 

Potential factors in a high-risk pregnancy

When your OB/GYN meets with you to confirm your pregnancy, he or she is also reviewing your history – looking for factors that change the common risks associated with pregnancy. For many women, no additional risks are found, and the OB/GYN follows a routine care plan. For others, the outcome is different; the pregnancy is high-risk.

Your pregnancy may be considered high-risk if you:

  • Are under the age of 17 or over the age of 35
  • Have given birth to a growth-restricted baby (low birth weight)
  • Have given birth to a premature baby (born prior to 37 weeks)
  • Have a history of hypertension, diabetes or other conditions during pregnancy
  • Are currently pregnant with a multiple gestation (twins, triplets, ect.)
     

Visiting a maternal-fetal medicine specialist

A visit to the MFM office is unlike most routine OB visits. At the Methodist Perinatal Center, you’ll still check in as you’re used to and meet with a nurse to record weight and blood pressure, but then you’ll dive into the reason you’re there. Expect a long, detailed discussion about specifics. The questions you’re asked can be awkward and overwhelming, but they’re important. Even subtle differences in your answers may open or close a door to specific treatment.

The importance of your questions at your perinatal visit

Your questions are just as important.

Aside from anything you may be curious or concerned about, be sure and ask your health care provider what signs or symptoms you need to be watching for, like:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Severe headaches
  • Pain or cramping in the abdomen
  • Regular or recurring contractions
  • Changes in vision
  • Decreased movement from baby

Your specialist will be able to tell you which symptoms warrant a call to your MFM office and which require emergency care.

Ultrasound etiquette during your perinatal visit

Next up – the ultrasound. You’ll likely receive one every visit, and you’ll probably consider this a bonus – you get to see your baby! It’s important to note that this is your medical team’s only means of examining a fetus.

Even for the best sonographers, ultrasounds can be a challenge. Babies move. They wiggle their way into interesting positions. If you minimize distractions, you’ll only help the sonographer concentrate on the very important task of examining baby.

Some common distractions include:

  • Cell-phone use
  • Taking pictures or recording video
  • Loud or distracting family members

It’s normal for your sonographer to not communicate a word to you about the exam – that’s your doctor’s job. He or she will make sure that you understand as much as you choose regarding the issue(s) at hand.
 

Staying calm, confident during a high-risk pregnancy

Sometimes, your provider has the pleasure of giving you the “all clear,” allowing you to return to your routine obstetrical care (those high-fives are free).

More often, though, your perinatal team will still need to balance your treatment with observation, plan interventions, prescribe medications and, perhaps most importantly, explain everything as it happens. Your job is to simply provide a healthy, low-stress environment for yourself and baby.

Here are some tips to help you achieve that:

  • Stay off Google. Your doctor ought to be your primary source of information. Jot down your questions as they arise and bring that list to your appointment(s).
  • Rest when you’re tired, but do stay active. Get plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet.
  • Try prenatal yoga or meditation. This can help reduce your stress and clear your mind.
  • Join a support group. There is something therapeutic about talking to others who have been or are in your shoes.

Remember, anxiety can affect your health, and a healthy mom is essential for a healthy baby. Do your best to remain positive and calm. After all, I may be biased, but at Methodist, you’re in the best of hands.

Neil Hamill

About the Author:

Dr. Neil Hamill, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Methodist Women's Hospital Perinatal Center, chose medicine because it’s where he thought he could make a positive impact with his skill sets.

He enjoys balancing the maternal needs with those of the fetus in complex situations and specializes in using two, three and four dimensional ultrasound to identify fetuses at risk for genetic conditions, congenital anomalies and complications of growth.

See More Articles by Neil Hamill