High-risk pregnancies can be challenging and stressful before, during and after delivery. You and your baby may need special monitoring, testing and care. Knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the anxiety.

What Causes a High-Risk Pregnancy?

In some cases, medical conditions may exist prior to a woman becoming pregnant that put her in a high-risk category. In other cases, the mother or baby may become high risk due to a condition that develops during the pregnancy.

Specific factors that might contribute to a high-risk pregnancy include:

  • Advanced maternal age. If a woman is 35 years old or older, and this is her first pregnancy, she may carry it through normally but research indicates she may be at higher risk for abnormal bleeding, prolonged labor, labor that doesn’t advance, or having a baby with a genetic disorder.
  • Lifestyle choices. Women who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and use illegal drugs can put their pregnancy at risk.
  • Medical history. While not always true for every mother, conditions such as a prior C-section, low birth weight baby or preterm birth — birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy —may increase the risks for subsequent pregnancies. Other risk factors include certain genetic conditions, a history of pregnancy loss or the death of a baby shortly after birth.
  • Underlying conditions. Chronic conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and epilepsy — increase pregnancy risks. A blood condition, such as anemia, an infection or an underlying mental health condition also can increase pregnancy risks.
  • Pregnancy complications. Various complications that develop during pregnancy pose risks, such as problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta. Severe morning sickness that continues past the first trimester can pose a threat. Other concerns might include too much or too little amniotic fluid, restricted fetal growth or Rh (rhesus) sensitization — a potentially serious condition that can occur when your blood group is Rh negative and your baby’s blood group is Rh positive.
  • Multiple pregnancy. Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher order multiples.
  • Overdue pregnancy. You might face additional risks if your pregnancy continues too long beyond the due date.