When is a pregnancy considered high-risk?

Evelyn Minaya, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Being over 35 isn't the only reason a pregnancy might be considered high risk. The definition has expanded over the years. Find out why in this video featuring obstetrician and gynecologist Evelyn Minaya, M.D.

A pregnancy is considered high risk when the life or health of the mother or fetus is threatened because of a situational circumstance, pre-gestational condition or conditions that occur because of the pregnancy. Some risk factors for a high-risk pregnancy include:

  • Age (less than 20 years or more than 35 years)
  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Low educational level/Low socio-economic status
  • Nutritional status
  • Blood type (Rh negative)
  • Parity
  • Multiple gestation pregnancy
  • Pre-existing chronic illness
  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Previous uterine surgery
  • History of miscarriages, stillbirths, or poor obstetrical outcomes.
A pregnancy is classified as high risk when a preexisting medical condition or a pregnancy-related complication threatens the mother’s or baby’s well being. Sometimes simply being age 35 or older (or age 15 or younger) is enough to be considered high risk. Other times, circumstances may arise that cause the mother to be monitored closely and perhaps undergo special testing. Some factors that may contribute to being considered a high-risk pregnancy include:
  • Carrying multiples (twins, triplets);
  • Having a history of miscarriages, stillbirths, or neurologically impaired
  • Having viral illnesses like HIV, herpes, hepatitis B, German measles,
           cytomegalovirus, or chicken pox;
  • Having an incompetent cervix;
  • Bleeding late in the pregnancy;
  • Having Rh disease, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure;
  • Using nicotine, alcohol, or other substances;
  • The baby being in a breech position or other presentation that may
           complicate birth;
  • Experiencing preterm labor or a premature rupture of membranes;
  • Being one to two weeks overdue.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.