What Factors Increase Your Risk for a Difficult Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is physically demanding; it drains a body of resources and puts pressure on nearly every vital organ. Modern medicine has made pregnancy safer than ever before, and has provided women with information on what they can do to promote the health of their babies.

Despite all of this, there are still risks that come with a pregnancy, no matter what measures we take to mitigate them. Doctors have discovered certain risk factors that can make pregnancies more dangerous for both the mother and the child. For an expecting mom, a non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) such as MaterniT 21 PLUS is one of the best investments to make.


Whatever you put into your body is also passed on to your baby. Women who smoke, drink or take drugs during their pregnancy are putting their baby’s health in jeopardy. Alcohol can affect your baby’s intellectual capacity as it grows and develops. It can also cause abnormal facial features and disorders to the heart, bones, kidneys, and hearing.

Tobacco use can cause birth defects, and researchers link it to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). One study showed that smoking during pregnancy triples the chance of stillbirth. Drug use can double the chance of a stillbirth, and marijuana specifically can interfere with the normal development of the brain in the fetus.

Body Weight

Overweight and underweight women are at higher risk for pregnancy complications. Women who weigh less than 100 pounds are more likely to deliver a baby prematurely. The baby is also more likely to be underweight at birth.

Women who struggle with obesity are at risk for developing gestational diabetes. This can affect the size of the baby as well as increase the likelihood of preeclampsia. Obesity can also lead to birth defects, including:

  • Spina bifida

  • Heart problems

  • Hydrocephaly

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate


If a woman has a child at 35 or older, she is at risk for a whole host of problems during and after the pregnancy. For instance, an older mother is more likely to give birth to a child with chromosomal abnormalities. Down syndrome is the most common, which causes intellectual disabilities and physical abnormalities.

The risk of a miscarriage also goes up with age. Experts believe it has to do with the deteriorating quality of a woman’s eggs as she gets older. The chances increase, according to one study, if the father is also older at the time of conception.

Pre-Existing Conditions

A number of pre-existing conditions can make pregnancies more difficult, such as:

  • High blood pressure increases the risk of low birth weight and preeclampsia. It also can damage the mother’s kidneys.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome increases the risk of miscarriage.

  • Diabetes can affect the baby’s size and leave the baby with low blood sugar after birth.

  • Kidney disease can lead to preeclampsia, preterm birth and low birth weight.

  • Autoimmune diseases can increase the incidence of stillbirth.

  • Thyroid disease can cause heart failure in the fetus. It can also affect brain development and lead to poor weight gain.

A mother cannot always do something about these risk factors, but sometimes they are at least partially under her control. Knowing in advance what risk factors you have can help you make the most of your pregnancy so you and your baby can be as healthy as possible before and after birth.


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