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Who is at increased risk of health problems during pregnancy?

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Some women are at increased risk for health problems during pregnancy. Important risk factors include the following:

  • Overweight and obesity.1Being overweight or obese increases the risk for complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Infants of overweight or obese mothers also have an increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), stillbirth, and being large for their gestational age.
  • Young or old maternal age. One in seven infants born in 2006 in the United States was born to a woman over the age of 35.2 While common, pregnancy after age 35 does increase the risk for complications during pregnancy such as stillbirth and for NTDs.3 In addition, teenage mothers are more likely to deliver early, putting their infant at risk for complications.4
  • Problems in previous pregnancies. Women who have experienced preeclampsia, stillbirth, or preterm labor or have had an infant born small for gestational age are at increased risk for problems during pregnancy.
  • Existing health conditions. Certain health conditions increase the risk for complications during pregnancy, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and HIV.
  • Pregnancy with twins or other multiples. Women who are expecting more than one baby are at increased risk for preeclampsia and preterm birth.

Women with high-risk pregnancies may need more frequent care and may need care from a team of health care providers to help promote healthy pregnancy and birth.5

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2007, October). Do you know the health risks of being overweight? Retrieved May 17, 2012, from (PDF – 1.31 MB) [top]
  2. Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2007). Births: Preliminary data for 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol. 56, no. 7. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007. Information calculated from detailed Table 2. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from (PDF – 448 KB) [top]
  3. March of Dimes. (2009, May). Trying to get pregnant: Pregnancy after 35. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. March of Dimes. (2009, November). Medical resources: Teenage pregnancy. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  5. NICHD. (2012, February 29). Pregnancy. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from [top]

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