The moment a woman discovers she is pregnant; she hopes for an uncomplicated and smooth pregnancy. For most women, that is exactly what happens barring a few bumps on the road. However, some women may have a greater chance of experiencing pregnancy complications and difficulties. A high-risk pregnancy is when the woman, her baby or both are at a higher risk of developing unexpected complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In India, about 20-30% of pregnancies belong to the high-risk category.
A high-risk pregnancy may stem from pre-existing maternal conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart or blood disorder or foetal conditions such as birth defects, genetic syndromes, anaemia etc. Consumption of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, advanced maternal age or multi-foetal gestation may also lead to a high-risk pregnancy.
Early detection of the warning signs of a high-risk pregnancy and efficient management can substantially reduce adverse maternal and foetal outcomes.
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Warning Signs of a High-Risk Pregnancy
Vaginal Bleeding or Watery Discharge
Bleeding or spotting is quite common during the first trimester. But bleeding in the second or third trimester is often associated with complications such as placental abruption, preterm labour or miscarriage. Any bleeding in pregnancy should never be ignored and It is best to contact the healthcare provider immediately. Similarly, women should notify their doctors if they see any abnormal clear or coloured discharge from their vagina.
Blurred Vision or Frequent Change in the Spectacle Number
A temporary loss of vision, light sensitivity, experiencing flashing lights or spots and blurry vision are a clear indication of preeclampsia, marked by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organs. It is best to call the doctor or rush to the hospital immediately upon the occurrence of these symptoms as they can progress rapidly and severe problems.
Severe Headaches or Dizziness
Getting a headache or experiencing some dizziness once in a while during the first trimester of the pregnancy is normal. But a persistent and severe headache accompanied by dizziness and blurring throughout may be a symptom of preeclampsia. If not monitored or treated right away it can lead to serious complications.
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Sudden Swelling in the Face, Hands or Feet
Gradual swelling in the legs, ankles, feet and fingers is absolutely common during pregnancy and often escalates as the pregnancy progresses further. But a sudden increase in swelling in the face, hands or feet can be a sign of preeclampsia and should be monitored right away. During a high-risk pregnancy, it is accompanied by severe headaches and blurry vision and can lead to serious complications if not treated immediately.
Pain or Cramping in the Lower Abdomen
During the first trimester, a woman’s body is preparing for the growing baby and pain or cramping in the stomach is normal. But severe pain or cramping that does not go away after 30 to 60 minutes might indicate a high-risk pregnancy. Persistent cramping that ranges from moderate to severe pain can be the indication of ectopic pregnancy which can be life-threatening. Women experiencing extreme pain or cramps along with vaginal bleeding should consult their doctor immediately.
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Decreased Foetal Movement
Foetal movements become common as the pregnancy progresses over 20-22 weeks and by the third-semester women should be able to feel foetal activity regularly. A sudden decrease in the foetal movement may be a red flag that there is a complication. In absence of at least 10 foetal movements during 2 hours, pregnant women should immediately call their specialist to make sure that they are not at a risk for stillbirth or the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck.
A high-risk pregnancy may sound ominous of complications but it does not necessarily mean that something bad will happen. Keeping an eye out for the warning signs, having thorough discussions with your doctor or a specialist and doing your best to stay positive can promote a healthy pregnancy. Extra care and vigilance can ensure a healthy birth.
Also, Read: Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
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