Mamas are usually info-hungry (the thousands of books available about pregnancy are proof of that), but what does a mama-to-be do when she has the possibility of carrying a high-risk pregnancy?
Dr. James Betoni, a leading board-certified maternal fetal medicine doctor and OB-GYN in Boise, ID, talked to StrollerTraffic about how to navigate a high-risk pregnancy and the importance of having the right information. Dr. Betoni is also the founder of the workbook and pregnancy app with the same name: Pregnancy Power.
For several reasons, including more women having children after the age of 40, high-risk pregnancies have become more common in the past several decades.
Women often hear the term “high-risk pregnancy,” but there is some confusion about how pregnancies are deemed high risk. Dr. Betoni explains that high risk encompasses a variety of issues that are normally treated by a specialist. “Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists are physicians who take care of pregnancies complicated either by a mom who has a medical condition that can lead to an adverse outcome, and/or a fetus that is prenatal and diagnosed with an abnormality, or there is a ‘suspected’ abnormality. For example, there may be an abnormal blood test showing increased risk for Down Syndrome. Also, every pregnancy with multiples is considered high risk,” he says.
There are several factors that make a women high risk, including genetic risk and pre-existing conditions. Dr. Betoni explains that a genetic risk includes “either something inherited and/or suspected from genetic screening tests – NIPT/quad screen and FTS are examples.” However, he says that conditions like “diabetes or hypertension that were diagnosed BEFORE pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition. Interestingly enough, if diabetes is diagnosed DURING pregnancy, but it was pre-existing, it is still called ‘gestational diabetes.’”
Even if a woman doesn’t have any high-risk factors (no pre-existing conditions, no genetic issues, no multiples), she could still be considered high-risk near birth. This is why it’s important to have a good relationship established with your OB-GYN or other maternal medical professional.
Women can take steps to promote a healthy pregnancy, Dr. Betoni says. “The ideal time is to resolve several possible pre-existing issues is during pre-conception. For example, obesity is associated with a variety of complications in pregnancy, including still birth. Getting to an ideal body weight BEFORE pregnancy is the best case scenario.”
If a mama-to-be is diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy, there are several ways that she can reduce her (most likely considerable) stress. Dr. Betoni suggests, “Educate yourself and be prepared when you go to your OB-GYN provider for your visits. Remember, most routine OB visits are scheduled for 10 or 15 minutes, and by the time blood pressure is taken and the nurse sees the patient, the OB doc may only be in the room for a short time.”
Women who are looking for a high-risk pregnancy expert should start at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s website and look at the information under “Resources for Women & Families.” The website also has a list of MFM specialists that can be searched by name or location.