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Unexpected Problems in 29 Percent of Low-Risk Pregnancies

Higher risk of some complications such as vacuum and forceps delivery among low-risk pregnancies

TUESDAY, June 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Twenty-nine percent of pregnancies identified as low risk have unexpected complications necessitating nonroutine obstetric or neonatal care, according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Valery A. Danilack, M.P.H., Ph.D., from the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., and colleagues reported the risk of unexpected maternal and newborn complications among pregnancies without identified prenatal risk factors using U.S. natality data from 2011 through 2013. Pregnancies were categorized according to 19 demographic, medical, and pregnancy characteristics as low risk (no prenatal risk factors) or high risk (at least one prenatal risk factor).

The researchers found that 38 percent of the 10,458,616 pregnancies were identified as low risk and 62 percent were high risk for unexpected complications. Forty-six percent of all pregnancies had at least one unexpected complication indicated on the birth certificate, including 29 percent of low-risk pregnancies and 57 percent of high-risk pregnancies. Compared with the high-risk group, the low-risk group had greatly reduced risk for unexpected or adverse outcomes overall and for several of the individual outcomes. Compared with high-risk pregnancies, low-risk pregnancies had higher risks of vacuum delivery, forceps delivery, meconium staining, and chorioamnionitis.

“This information is important for planning location of birth and evaluating birthing centers and hospitals for necessary resources to ensure quality care and patient safety,” the authors write.

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