Expert Advice

High-Risk Pregnancy – Your Decisions and Options

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You just heard that your pregnancy is high risk. Higher risk pregnancy can sound scary at first, but don’t worry. There are ample tools to ensure your safety… and lots of different ways to accomplish a healthy, happy outcome for you and baby. So once you have your diagnosis, it’s time to consider the decisions and options for high-risk birth, and develop your birth plan to account for them.

If anything is sure about pregnancy and birth, it is that the process is dynamic and unpredictable. Many individual reasons can turn your pregnancy high risk.

Some factors make one care provider think you are high risk, while other care providers would say “No way.” Also, riisk assessment can vary from state to state, office to office, and even person to person within the same office.

It can be confusing.

High-risk factors can occur at different times during pregnancy and can include:

Health issues

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • pelvic pain
  • chronic or gestational diabetes (that cannot be controlled by diet)
  • HIV+
  • pre-existing conditions like thyroid disease or asthma
  • significant extra weight
  • pre-existing conditions like thyroid disease or asthma
  • infections (kidney, or uterine)
  • pain, nausea, or vomiting in third trimester
  • bleeding in the first trimester
  • pre-term labor or premature rupture of membranes
  • some medications

Pregnancy and/or family history

  • twins+
  • previous c-section(s)
  • family or personal history of pregnancy complications or congenital abnormalities

Lifestyle issues

  • teen pregnancy
  • smoking or substance addictions[1]
  • irregular prenatal care
  • not following medical advice

Baby issues

  • delayed fetal heart rate response or decreased fetal movement
  • baby position in late pregnancy

Each of these factors carries its own set of potential complications for either you or baby, or both. The great news is that there is a ton you can do to help manage your risk during pregnancy and birth.



By taking an active role in your own health and working with empowering birth professionals, you may find that you and your baby will be healthy as can be at the end of the day.

Get more involved (if you aren’t already) by

Just by doing these things you may be able to shift yourself back down to a lower risk category. Stay flexible, informed, keep a positive outlook, and find a care provider you trust[3]!

Culture matters

The values, training and assumptions within your local birthing culture play a big role in determining what factors fall in the “high risk” bucket, and what options are available to you with a high risk pregnancy.

If traditional medical establishments have said you’re high risk, you may be surprised to find other care providers who think home birth or a freestanding birth center could still be good options for you.

For some women with high-risk pregnancies, being in the hospital is the most peaceful choice. Others feel more comfortable dealing with risk factors in the birth center or at home.

Planning where you give birth empowers you to ask other important questions, many of which influence your birth plan. During prenatal visits with your care provider, discuss your birth preferences and how those fit with your risk level.

If you aren’t sure how you feel—or haven’t been told you still have options—get a second, or third, opinion!

Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions until you feel confident you’ve come to the best conclusions to meet your own values.

With your care provider’s help you can write the birth plan that fits your risk and your options. One copy of your birth plan should be in your file and a second copy should go with you in your hospital bag, if you give birth there.



To learn more about options for your pregnancy, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner.  These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.


Published: August 19, 2015 | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: August, 2015

Kim WallsHigh-Risk Pregnancy – Your Decisions and Options

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