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What's a "High-Risk" Pregnancy?

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

I'm pregnant and my doctor says my pregnancy is "high-risk." What does this mean?

A "high-risk" pregnancy means that you have one or more things that raise your — or your baby's — chance for health problems or preterm (early) delivery.

Some of these things are: 

  • being 17 years old or younger
  • being 35 years old or older
  • being underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant
  • being pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • having high blood pressure, diabetes, depression or another health problem 
  • having problems with a previous pregnancy, including premature labor or having a child with a genetic problem or birth defect

Not getting prenatal care, smokingtaking illegal drugs, and drinking alcohol also can cause health problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. 

Because your pregnancy is considered high-risk, it's important to work with your doctor or care team to get any health problems that can be managed under control.

Other tips for a healthy pregnancy include:

  • See your doctor early on and throughout your pregnancy for prenatal care.
  • Eat a healthy diet (getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, etc.) and exercise if your doctor says it's OK.
  • Gain a healthy amount of weight (not too much or too little).
  • Protect yourself from infections (including Zika). Be sure to wash your hands well and often; not eat raw meat, fish, or unpasteurized cheese; get any immunizations your doctor recommends; and use condoms to protect against STDs.
  • Reduce stress in your life.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2016