The Story of High Risk, Low Risk and a Big Fat Lie


By Chloe Mulholland

High risk and low risk- the two categories that women are lumped into when it comes to birth. If everything is straightforward (and I mean everything) then you’ll be lucky enough to be classed as low risk- great! This means you can freely choose where to have your baby and you can write a birth plan that suits you. However, if you find yourself with the slightest of complications- you’ll be labelled high risk and suddenly things get a whole lot more difficult.

At first it can seem exciting, or maybe a little scary and then as time goes by it can feel frustrating. You may start to find you hear the words “you can’t” a lot. For example- “you can’t have a water birth because you’re high risk”, “you can’t go overdue because you’re high risk”, “you can’t use the birthing unit because you’re high risk”. All your hopes of a certain type of birth may feel like they are flying out of the window and you are left feeling powerless, disheartened and disappointed.

I realise this all sounds like doom and gloom but there is a point to what I’m saying and it’s a good one. The point is that this whole high vs. low risk is a big fat lie. There’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist. Living our lives as we do puts us at risk- if I go for a walk I’m putting myself at risk, I might get hit by a car and break a leg, get stung by a bee and go into anaphylactic shock, who knows what could happen! It’s a risky life we lead. When we get pregnant there are risks involved there too. Of course they are, it’s part of life. So, why do we feel the need to label people as high and low risk? What does it even mean?

Well, generally speaking it simply boils down to whether or not you need an obstetrician involved in your care. It’s a handy way of midwives deciding if they need to refer you to see someone or not. This is not unhelpful and this makes sense. If you have a condition requiring a certain medication- obstetricians can prescribe it, if you require specific investigations in pregnancy- obstetricians can decide which ones are necessary and they can interpret the results, if you have a genuine need for surgery- obstetricians can schedule in the best time and then actually perform the surgery. They are amazing people, with an amazing skill set and if you need one involved in your care then be grateful that they are there for you.

The problem is that needing an obstetrician involved means that you then are classed as high risk. This is some the most unhelpful language we could have picked. Risk is a spectrum. Yes, some women are at higher risks of certain things but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are at a high risk. The only person who gets to decide if it is high or low- is YOU! You, the pregnant mum. If you deem something to be a high enough risk, then  you give consent for your caregiver to carry out whatever intervention is required. If you don’t deem it to be high risk- then you simply decline what is being offered.

You are the one in control, you are the one doing the allowing and you are the one that gets decide. Never forget that and don’t let being ‘high risk’ stand in the way of the birth that you want. Ask the questions that need to be asked, get the information you need to make those decisions and be brave! Stand up for what you believe, be the all-powerful woman you are and get the birth you AND your baby deserve (whatever path that may be).


If you’d like to give yourself a confidence boost and learn how to make the right decisions for the yourself and for your baby- then come and join us on a hypnobirthing course and we’ll show you exactly how- just click here to book. We’ve got group courses, private courses and relaxation groups across Leigh-on-Sea and Upminster and we would just LOVE to share our knowledge with you.

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