Ask Avera: What to do if you have a high-risk pregnancy

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The term ‘high-risk pregnancy’ can cause uneasiness for expecting parents. In this week’s Ask Avera, OB/GYN Dr. Kimberlee McKay explains what the term means and what parents should expect if they do have a high-risk pregnancy.

“We talk about more risk factors in pregnancies. There's a couple ways to think about it. There's ‘Mom risk factors’ which are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, seizure disorders. And then there's ‘baby risk factors’ where baby may have something wrong. You may have a history of pre-term labor where we're doing things to ensure that you go as long with your next pregnancy as possible. But the main thing is that if you have those risk factors, that you get to a place where they can help manage them -- which really for us is with our maternal fetal medicine specialists,” said Dr. McKay.

Dr. McKay says parents can minimize their risks of a high-risk pregnancy.

“So before pregnancy, if you've had a complication in previous pregnancies whether that's preeclampsia and hypertension, obesity, diabetes -- these are the things that keep coming up -- you want to optimize your medical management of those issues. So if you can lose some weight, that's great. If you are someone who has had a particular kind of complication, and in general that's going to be your preterm labor depending on how early you deliver, you want to have a plan in place when you get pregnant and maybe see those specialists even before you get pregnant to come up with a plan,” said Dr. McKay.

Dr. McKay says the better you manage those risk factors, the more likely you will deliver full term.

“It's those preterm babies that go into the NICU. And we have lots of conversations about what a NICU stay looks like and what to expect when your baby is being taken care of by our tiny baby doctors, our neonatal intensive care specialists,” said Dr. McKay.

A NICU stay for your baby doesn’t mean that they won’t grow up to be a healthy child.

“Our doctors are experts in making sure that they get as far as possible. You may need to expect that there’s going to be a tube down your baby’s throat but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to, two years from now, be just a normal, healthy child,” said Dr. McKay.

If you have a question for one of our ask Avera experts, you can email Tess at tess.hedrick@ksfy.com.