Column: Understanding high-risk pregnancy
Commentary by Lauren Dungy-Poythress, MD, Riley Physicians Maternal Fetal Medicine
When it comes to our health, nobody likes to hear the words “high risk.” This holds true for pregnant women who are naturally concerned not only about their own health, but the well-being of their babies. While there are a number of reasons pregnancies may be considered high risk, it’s important to remember that most high-risk pregnancies result in a good outcome for both mother and baby.
When is a pregnancy high risk?
Generally, any circumstance or condition outside of what’s expected during a normal pregnancy can constitute high risk. Pregnant women with underlying medical conditions, such as a heart problem, high blood pressure or diabetes, are often categorized as high risk. Pregnancy in women ages 35 and older is also considered high risk due to the increased risk for Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities in babies born to mothers of advanced age.
What does high-risk pregnancy mean for mother and baby?
As part of a thorough prenatal care plan, an OB-GYN will identify whether a pregnancy is high risk and requires further evaluation by a maternal fetal medicine specialist – a physician specifically trained to manage high-risk pregnancies. While most women experience anxiety – and even fear – upon learning there is a potential complication, visiting a maternal fetal medicine specialist helps determine whether there is a serious concern and what to do next.
I frequently tell patients that knowledge is power. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can discuss options and how best to manage the situation.
Lauren Dungy-Poythress, MD, associate professor, Indiana University School of Medicine, specializes in obstetrics & gynecology and maternal fetal medicine. She is a guest columnist located at Riley Physicians Maternal Fetal Medicine, IU Health North Hospital, 11725 N. Illinois St., Ste. 300, in Carmel. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.944.7010.