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The rate of high-risk pregnancies in the United States is on the rise and may be more frequent now than in any other time since advanced obstetric care became readily available.
Experts attribute the rise to a larger number of women in their forties having children, as well as epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which often lead to complications during birth. High-risk pregnancies can also increase the risk of birth defects including neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy.
While the exact number of risky pregnancies is unknown, the following are some other reasons experts believe the rate is increasing:
§ Older mothers – More than 104,000 births in the U.S. were to women between 40 and 44 in 2005.
§ Chronic health conditions – Health problems such as obesity among 18 to 44-year-old women rose 13 percent since 1990.
§ Multiple births resulting from fertility treatments – Over three percent of all live births in 2004 were multiples, up from two percent in 1980. Multiple births often lead to premature delivery and other health complications.
§ Increase in cancer survivors – Thousands of cancer survivors are at the prime age for childbearing.
§ Increase in prescription drug use – More pregnant women are taking drugs to treat depression, anxiety, cancer, and other problems. Many of these drugs pose serious birth defects risks to pregnant mothers and their babies.