Every pregnancy carries its risks. But good
prenatal care and support can help minimize those risks. Factors like age and
overall health status can increase a woman’s chances of experiencing complications
Structural problems in a woman's uterus or
cervix heighten the risk of difficulties like miscarriage, an
abnormally positioned fetus, and difficult labor. These problems also increase
the risk of a cesarean delivery.
Age is one of the most common factors that
can add risk to a woman's pregnancy.
Women under the age of 20
have a significantly higher risk of serious medical complications related to
pregnancy than those over 20. Children born to teenage mothers are more likely
- deliver prematurely
- have a low birth weight
- develop placenta previa
- experience pregnancy-induced hypertension
- contract toxemia
Some risk factors connected
to young age include the following.
- underdeveloped pelvis: Young
women's bodies are still growing and changing. An underdeveloped pelvis can
lead to difficulties during childbirth.
deficiencies: Young women are more likely to have poor eating
habits. Nutritional deficiency can lead to extra strain on the body that causes
more complications for both the mother and child.
blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger premature labor.
This can lead to premature or underweight babies who require specialized care
Women Over 35
As a woman ages, her chances
of conceiving begins to decline. An older woman who becomes pregnant is also
less likely to have a problem-free pregnancy. Common issues include the
conditions: Older women are more likely to have
conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease that
can complicate pregnancy. When these conditions are not well controlled they
can contribute to miscarriage, poor fetal growth, and birth defects.
problems: A woman over 35 has a higher risk of having a
child with birth defects due to chromosomal issues. Down syndrome is
the most common birth defect related to chromosomes. It causes varying degrees
of mental retardation and physical abnormalities. Prenatal
screening and tests can help determine the likelihood of
A woman age 35–39 is more likely to have a miscarriage than a woman in her 20s.
According to the
Mayo Clinic, a woman has about 20 percent risk of miscarriage
at age 35. She has 80 percent risk of miscarriage at age 45.
complications: Women over 35 are more likely to have complications commonly associated with pregnancy regardless
Women who are obese are at a
higher risk than normal-weight women of having babies with some birth defects,
including spina bifida, heart problems, hydrocephaly, and cleft palate and lip.
Obese women are also more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes during the pregnancy. Obese women
are also more likely to have high blood pressure. This can lead to a smaller
than expected baby as well as increase the risk for pre-eclampsia and toxemia.
Women who weigh less than 100
pounds are more likely to deliver prematurely or give birth to an underweight
Both type 1 and type 2
diabetics may experience complications during pregnancy. Poor control of
diabetes can increase the chances of birth defects in the baby, and can cause
health concerns for the mother.
Some women who may not have had diabetes before the pregnancy may be diagnosed with
diabetic symptoms during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes. Any woman diagnosed
with gestational diabetes should talk with her doctor about the specific
recommendations to control her blood sugar. Dietary changes will be recommended.
You will also be advised to monitor your blood sugar levels.
Some women may have to take
insulin to control their blood sugar levels. Women who have gestational diabetes
are at much higher risk for developing diabetes after their pregnancy is over. Testing
for diabetes once the pregnancy is over is recommended.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Every pregnant woman should be screened for
STIs during her first prenatal visit. A woman who has an STI is very likely to
transmit it to her baby. Depending on the infection, a baby born to a woman
with an STI is at a higher risk for:
sepsis (infection in the baby’s blood stream)
A woman who has had five or more previous
pregnancies is more susceptible to abnormally quick labor and accompanying
excessive blood loss during future labors.
Complications arise in multiple birth
pregnancies because more than one baby is growing in the womb. Because of the
limited amount of space and the additional strain multiple fetuses put on a
woman, these babies are more likely to arrive prematurely. Many pregnancy
complications, like high blood pressure and diabetes, are more common in
Previous Complications with Pregnancy
If a woman has had
complications in a previous pregnancy, she may be more likely to have the same
complication in subsequent pregnancies.