A technician performing an ultrasound on a pregnant woman’s belly.

What are some factors that make a pregnancy high risk?

Several factors can make a pregnancy high risk, including existing health conditions, the mother’s age, lifestyle, and health issues that happen before or during pregnancy.

This page provides some possible factors that could create a high-risk pregnancy situation. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, and each pregnancy is different, so the specific risks for one pregnancy may not be risks for another. Women who have any questions about their pregnancy should talk to a healthcare provider.


    1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018). FAQs: Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Preeclampsia-and-High-Blood-Pressure-During-Pregnancy 
    2. Office on Women's Health. (2016). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
    3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Pregnancy if you have diabetes. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/diabetes-pregnancy
    4. Williams, D., & Davison, J. (2008). Chronic kidney disease in pregnancy. BMJ, 336(7637), 211–215. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2213870/
    5. National Kidney Foundation. (2016). Pregnancy and kidney disease. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/pregnancy.cfm 
    6. Kendrick, J., Sharma, S., Holmen, J., Palit, S., Nuccio, E., & Chonchol, M. (2015). Kidney disease and maternal and fetal outcomes in pregnancy. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 66(1), 55–59. Retrieved March 8, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485539/
    7. Office on Women's Health. (2012). Autoimmune diseases fact sheet. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/autoimmune-diseases.html
    8. Office on Women's Health. (2017). Thyroid disease fact sheet. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/thyroid-disease
    9. Vesco, K. K., Sharma, A. J., Dietz, P. M., Rizzo, J. H., Callaghan, W. M., England, L., et al. (2011). Newborn size among obese women with weight gain outside the Institute of Medicine recommendation. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 117, 812–818.
    10. Institute of Medicine. (2009). Weight gain during pregnancy. Retrieved on February 6, 2017, from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2009/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy-Reexamining-the-Guidelines/Report%20Brief%20-%20Weight%20Gain%20During%20Pregnancy.pdf  (PDF 716 KB)
    11. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). FAQs: HIV and pregnancy. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq113.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120730T1640322605  (PDF 279 KB)
    12. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). FAQ 103: Having a baby (especially for teens). Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Having-a-Baby-Especially-for-Teens 
    13. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Teenage pregnancy. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/pages/Teenage-Pregnancy.aspx 
    14. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (2007). Older mothers more likely than younger mothers to deliver by caesarean. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/pages/caesarean_release_030807.aspx
    15. Gill, S. K., Broussard, C., Devine, O., Green, R. F., Rasmussen, S. A., Reefhuis, J.; The National Birth Defects Prevention Study. (2012). Association between maternal age and birth defects of unknown etiology: United States, 1997–2007. Birth Defects Research. Part A, Clinical and Molecular Teratology, 94(12), 1010–1018. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4532312/
    16. Grande, M., Borrell, A., Garcia-Posada, R., Borobio, V., Muñoz, M., Creus, M., et al. (2012). The effect of maternal age on chromosomal anomaly rate and spectrum in recurrent miscarriage. Human Reproduction, 27(10), 3109–3117. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888165
    17. Sivalingam, V. N., Duncan, W. C., Kirk, E., Shephard, L. A., & Horne, A. W. (2011). Diagnosis and management of ectopic pregnancy. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 37(4), 231–240. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3213855/
    18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Alcohol use in pregnancy. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html
    19. Eckstrand, K. L., Ding, Z., Dodge, N. C., Cowan, R. L., Jacobson, J. L., Jacobson, S. W., et al. (2012). Persistent dose-dependent changes in brain structure in young adults with low-to-moderate alcohol exposure in utero. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(11), 1892–1902. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22594302
    20. NICHD. (2013). Tobacco, drug use in pregnancy can double risk of stillbirth. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/121113-stillbirth-drug-use.aspx
    21. NICHD. (2016). Cigarette smoking during pregnancy linked to changes in baby's immune system. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/122316-smoking-pregnancy
    22. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Pregnant? Don't smoke. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/PregnantDontSmoke/
    23. NICHD. (2016). Prenatal exposure to marijuana may disrupt fetal brain development, mouse study suggests. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/
    24. MedlinePlus. (2015). Twins, triplets, multiple births. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/twinstripletsmultiplebirths.html#cat1
    25. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2016). FAQs: Preterm (premature) labor and birth. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Preterm-Premature-Labor-and-Birth 
    26. Howard, E. J., Harville, E., Kissinger, P., & Xiong, X. (2013). The association between short interpregnancy interval and preterm birth in Louisiana: A comparison of methods. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 17(5), 933–939.

What are some factors that make a pregnancy high risk?

Can a high-risk pregnancy be prevented?

How is high-risk pregnancy treated?

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