Tuesday, 17 November 2009

High Risk Pregnancy

Special Care for Mom & Baby

For many women, pregnancy is a time of unparalleled joy and expectation. But for others, especially those with chronic medical conditions or who are expecting multiples, pregnancy can be a time of intense fear and uncertainty. In those instances, both mother and child need specialized care to ensure good health.

Some five to ten percent of pregnancies are termed "high risk." A pregnancy is "high risk" or "complicated" when the life or health of the mother or baby may be at risk. It is estimated that approximately one out of every four pregnant women will experience complications this year, sometimes leading to the birth of a premature baby. When babies are born preterm, they have a higher risk for serious health problems.

Families can cope more successfully with a high-risk pregnancy with appropriate medical intervention, education, and a strong support system. In fact, many risk factors can be identified even before conception occurs.

Maternal age is one factor that contributes to pregnancy risks. The chances of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or diabetes in the mother and abnormal development of the baby increase with the mother's age. The mother's height and weight are factors, also. Women who weigh less than 100 pounds are likely to deliver underweight babies. Those who are overweight put themselves at risk for gestational diabetes and hypertension.

Women with chronic medical conditions, such as lupus, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis, are all at risk for complicated pregnancies. Also, a family history of mental retardation or birth defects can indicate a high-risk pregnancy. Likewise, women who have experienced miscarriages, pre-term deliveries, stillbirths, or neonatal deaths need specialized care to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth.

While family history is beyond anyone's control, there are many factors that a woman can control to have a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby. Cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse put mother and child at risk, but are factors which can be controlled.

Smoking commonly leads to low birth weight. More severe complications include spontaneous abortions, congenital heart defects, and premature births. A mother's alcohol consumption can cause her child to have severe behavioral problems, and in some cases, mental retardation. Drug abuse is not only dangerous for a mother's health, but also can cause premature birth, stunted growth, mental retardation and/or drug addiction in her baby. It is important not to expose an unborn child to harmful substances while in the womb.

A high-risk pregnancy diagnosis shouldn't automatically have a negative connotation. With proper care, 90 to 95 percent of high-risk pregnancies produce healthy, viable babies. The earlier a problem is detected, the better the chances that both mother and baby will stay healthy. It is important to remember, however, that not all conditions can be diagnosed, and some pregnancies begin normally, but develop problems later. Make sure you schedule regular visits with your doctor, before and after becoming pregnant

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