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Who is at increased risk of health problems during pregnancy?

Some women are at increased risk for health problems during pregnancy. Important risk factors include the following:


  • Overweight and obesity. Being overweight increases the risk for complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Infants of overweight or obese mothers also have an increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), stillbirth, and being large for their gestational age.
  • Young or old maternal age. One in seven infants born in 2006 in the United States was born to a woman over the age of 35. While common, pregnancy after age 35 does increase the risk for complications during pregnancy such as stillbirth and for NTDs. In addition, teenage mothers are more likely to deliver early, putting their infant at risk for complications.
  • Problems in previous pregnancies. Women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm labor are at increased risk for problems during pregnancy.
  • Existing health conditions. Certain health conditions increase the risk for complications during pregnancy, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and HIV.
  • Pregnancy with twins or other multiples. Women who are expecting more than one baby are at increased risk for preeclampsia and preterm birth.


Women with high-risk pregnancies may need more frequent care and may need care from a team of health care providers to help promote healthy pregnancy and birth.

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