Need To Know: High Risk Pregnancy

Issue No. 4: Black Maternal Health
Words - Diana McDonnell: MSN, APRN, AGNP-CP + Terri Fleming: MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Illustration - Alexandra Folino

A pregnancy is considered high risk if there are conditions in place that threaten the health or life of either the pregnant parent or the fetus. There are certain factors that lead to a pregnancy being categorized as high risk that require careful monitoring and additional prenatal care.

If any of these factors apply to you, talk to your health care provider about additional monitoring or care for you and your baby to help you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Health Conditions

Existing health problems can lead to a high risk pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, previous preterm birth, and HIV positive status.

Other health conditions can arise after a person becomes pregnant, including gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Carrying multiples or a fetus with certain genetic disorders also makes a pregnancy high risk.



Teenagers are at increased risk of high blood pressure, anemia, and preterm labor and delivery.

People who have their first pregnancy after age 35 are at increased risk of high blood pressure, pregnancy loss, prolonged labor, and delivery issues like excessive bleeding.


Lifestyle factors

Smoking increases risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clots, preterm birth, and low birth weight.

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The misuse of medication or the use of illicit drugs can interfere with brain development, cause neonatal abstinence syndrome, and increase the risk of stillbirth.


Intimate partner violence

Intimate partner violence refers to controlling behaviors, and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from an intimate partner.

IPV screening should be part of routine prenatal care. Tell your doctor immediately if you believe you may be experiencing intimate partner violence.

For additional support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.