8 Diseases That Can Result in a High-Risk Pregnancy

Though the pregnant stars we see make it easy to think the path to delivery is all smiles and rainbows, this isn’t always the case. There are aches, swollen, feet, and the desire to eat forbidden foods. On top of that, there’s always the possibility something more serious ends up happening, resulting in a high-risk pregnancy.

There are many factors involved in determining a woman’s chances of a high-risk pregnancy. In addition to individual characteristics, such as age and lifestyle choices, preexisting health conditions can often put a woman, and her baby, at risk. Staying healthy throughout the course of a pregnancy is crucial, but some women’s health histories make doing so more difficult. Here are eight diseases that can result in a high-risk pregnancy.

1. Autoimmune diseases

Pregnant woman holding belly in field

Autoimmune diseases can make pregnancy more difficult. | iStock.com/tamaravidmar

While women with autoimmune diseases can safely have children, potential risks depend on the disease and how severe it is. According to the Office on Women’s Health, pregnant women with lupus have a greater risk of preterm birth and stillbirth, and those with myasthenia gravis may have trouble breathing during pregnancy. While it is possible for symptoms of an autoimmune disease to improve when you’re with child, they may also flare up. Additionally, some medications used to treat autoimmune diseases may not be safe during pregnancy.

2. Polycystic ovarian syndrome

woman visiting her gynecologist

Consult with your doctor if you have PCOS. | iStock.com

A common condition among females of reproductive age, polycystic ovarian syndrome can disrupt more than just a woman’s menstrual cycle. With a whole host of accompanying symptoms, PCOS also happens to be the most common cause of female infertility. If, and when, a woman with PCOS does conceive, the condition can interfere with her ability to stay pregnant. According to the National Institutes of Health, health problems during pregnancy include higher rates of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature delivery.

3. Heart disease

doctor in a white coat holding a symbol to indicate heart health

Heart health is so important, especially during pregnancy. | iStock.com

In some cases, women with certain types of heart disease are advised against pregnancy in the first place. Medical professionals recommend women with pulmonary hypertension, severe heart failure, or those who remain cyanotic (the appearance of blue or purple skin as a result of the tissues near the skin’s surface not getting enough oxygen) avoid pregnancy due to an increased risk of blood clots and stroke. If the current status of your health, or your health history, includes heart disease, the American Heart Association suggests working with a high-risk obstetrician along with a cardiologist.

4. Thyroid disease

Human Thyroid Gland Illustration

Thyroid disease can result in high-risk pregnancy. | iStock.com/Nerthuz

Having an overactive or underactive thyroid comes with some pretty noticeable symptoms. And if you’ve already established something’s amiss with yours, it’s important to discuss the state of your thyroid with your doctor before becoming pregnant. The importance of your thyroid is indisputable — it’s the small gland in the neck that makes hormones responsible for regulating a person’s heart rate and blood pressure. And when problems with a woman’s thyroid go undetected during pregnancy, the NIH says it can cause problems for the fetus, such as heart failure, poor weight gain, and birth defects.

5. High blood pressure

elements of blood pressure

High blood pressure can result in a high-risk pregnancy. | iStock.com

High blood pressure doesn’t necessarily render a pregnancy doomed from the start, but it does need to be closely monitored. High blood pressure isn’t good for anyone, let alone a mother-to-be who’s not only responsible for her own heart health, but for that of her unborn child. Luckily, high blood pressure can be managed. That being said, it has to be treated. When high blood pressure is uncontrolled, the NIH says, the mother’s kidney’s can be damaged and there’s an increased risk of low birth weight and preeclampsia.


Blood collection tube with HIV test label

It’s possible to pass HIV to your baby during pregnancy. | iStock.com/dina2001

Women with HIV/AIDS are already up against some pretty tough odds, there’s no arguing that, but pregnancy further complicates things. A mother can pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy (through the placenta), during labor and delivery (when her water breaks or through a vaginal birth), or after delivery (through breastfeeding).

Because HIV is so highly contagious through bodily fluids, it’s crucial infected women follow some important guidelines to reduce the chances of passing it on to the baby. Pregnant women who’ve been infected with HIV should stick to their doctor-recommended prescription medication treatment plan, have their baby by C-section, and should not breastfeed. If these guidelines are followed, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says 99% of HIV-infected women will not pass it to their children.

7. Kidney disease

kidney cross section

Women with kidney disease should be especially cautious during pregnancy. | iStock.com/Hywards

In women with kidney disease, the chances of a healthy pregnancy all depend on the severity of the condition. According to the National Kidney Foundation, women with mild kidney disease who have normal blood pressure and little or no protein in their urine can have a healthy pregnancy. However, the risk of complications increases with moderate to severe kidney disease. In more serious cases, becoming pregnant poses risks that are too dangerous to both mother and child.

8. Diabetes

man checking blood sugar level by glucometer

You should follow specific guidelines if you have diabetes and are pregnant. | iStock.com/dolgachov

While you’ve likely heard it’s possible to develop diabetes during pregnancy, women who’ve been diagnosed with type-1 or type-2 diabetes before getting pregnant should take extra precaution. In addition to keeping blood glucose in the target range, the American Diabetes Association offers a list of guidelines to follow when trying to conceive. This is not an exhaustive list of health problems, though, so it’s important to review all medical history with your doctor during the family planning process.