Medical Conditions That Lead to a High-Risk Pregnancy

High-Risk Pregnancy, Marsha K. Howerton, MD

From the minute you see your baby on the ultrasound, or hear their heart beating ever-so-rapidly, you’re constantly thinking about their health and well-being. For mothers-to-be who are having high-risk pregnancies, whether because of a chronic condition or something that develops while they’re expecting, those 40 weeks can be a roller coaster of emotions and physical challenges.

Complications with the mother’s health, the baby’s health, or both, can lead to a high-risk pregnancy, which means closer prenatal monitoring. You require more frequent appointments for prenatal care than mothers at a lesser risk.

Chronic medical conditions that can lead to a high-risk pregnancy

Several circumstances can lead to a high-risk pregnancy. A mother with a pre-existing condition needs to be monitored more closely than someone without a chronic illness. Here are some of the possible chronic conditions that can affect a pregnancy:


Whether you suffer from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your condition may greatly impact your pregnancy. Review your medical history with your doctor before getting pregnant so you’ll know the best way to stay healthy from the beginning.


Another serious condition is high blood pressure, or hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause kidney damage to the mother; a baby born prematurely or at a low birth weight; and the extremely serious condition preeclampsia. Take steps to lower your blood pressure through lifestyle changes before becoming pregnant.

Heart disease

When you have a serious, chronic heart condition, you may be advised to avoid pregnancy altogether. Pregnancy puts a tremendous strain on your heart, and heart disease only adds to it, putting you at a greater risk for developing blood clots or having a stroke. Speak with your cardiologist before becoming pregnant to find out the risk a pregnancy may pose to your heart.

Thyroid disease

An overactive or underactive thyroid can also put you in the high-risk category. Not only are you at greater risk for blood pressure and heart-rate related complications, but child is, too. When your thyroid disease is unmanaged in pregnancy, your baby is at a greater risk of poor weight gain, heart failure, and birth defects.

Autoimmune disorders

Moms-to-be who have an autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, are at risk for complications such as premature birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage. Those who have multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis may be taking medications that can affect fetal development. Your pregnancy, while dealing with an autoimmune disorder or disease, can be managed successfully, but it comes at a higher risk.

Kidney disease

Women who have kidney disease can have a healthy pregnancy, depending on the severity of the disease. If you have only mild kidney disease, your pregnancy will need to be closely monitored for your health and the baby’s, but as the severity of your condition grows, so does your risk for complications. Discuss your viability for pregnancy with your nephrologist before you pursue a pregnancy.


Women with HIV and even AIDS can have a successful pregnancy, but it involves extremely close monitoring. The deadly virus is passed through body fluids, so ensuring the health of your baby can be very complicated. Even with the closest of monitoring, your baby may become infected through the placenta, or through a vaginal delivery, so your baby needs to be delivered via cesarean section.

With careful monitoring you can deliver a healthy, virus-free, child. According to statistics, 99% of babies born to HIV-positive women are unaffected by the disease.


Obesity increases the risk a pregnancy poses to the mother, as well as the baby. Mom can develop gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia, and require a cesarean section. The baby is at increased risk for developing heart complications by 15%. An obese mother also puts her baby at risk for neural tube defects, and even stillbirth. If you’re obese, lose the weight before getting pregnant.

Conditions that may develop in pregnancy that deem you as high risk

Other circumstances can develop during your pregnancy and put you at high risk, even if you were healthy at the start. These include:

Peace of mind for a high-risk pregnancy

If you have a chronic condition, or have had a pregnancy complication before, and you’re planning a pregnancy, Dr. Howerton can ease your mind. Our Midtown office serves the Greater Tulsa metro area. Contact the Marsha K. Howerton, MD, practice for your pregnancy peace of mind.

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