A pregnant woman and a man looking at an ultrasound.

Who is at increased risk of health problems during pregnancy?

Some women are at increased risk for health problems during pregnancy.

Important risk factors include the following:

  • Overweight and obesity.1 Being 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 their babies having neural tube defects (NTDs) or congenital heart defects and being stillborn or being large for their gestational age.
  • Young or old maternal age. About 1 in every 6.5 infants born in 2014 in the United States was born to a woman aged 35 or older.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 before or who have had an infant born small for gestational age are at increased risk for problems during the current 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. (2012). Do you know some of the health risks of being overweight? Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/PDFs/hlthrisks1104.pdf (PDF – 1.31 MB) [top]
  2. Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S. C., & Mathews, M. S. (2015). Births: Final data for 2014. National Vital Statistics Reports, 64, 1–64. [top]
  3. March of Dimes. (2013). A mommy after 35. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/trying_after35.html External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. MedlinePlus. (2016). Teenage pregnancy. Retrieved September 8, 2016, from https://medlineplus.gov/teenagepregnancy.html [top]
  5. NICHD. (2013). What is a high-risk pregnancy? Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/Pages/high-risk.aspx [top]

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