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Q & A with Susan Gerber, M.D., MPH, Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Dr. Gerber, who has been practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology for 11 years, is also the Associate Director of Graduate Medical Education in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern. Dr. Gerber's clinical and research interests include perinatal health policy as well as maternal quality of life.

Be Smart. Be Well. sat down with Dr. Gerber to discuss what contributes to a high-risk pregnancy and what women can do to manage it. Watch the video interview above or read the transcript below.

To learn more about Managing Healthy Pregnancy, visit Be Smart. Be Well. Managing Pregnancy Risks.

BSBW: What are the normal risks of pregnancy?

Susan Gerber M.D.: All pregnant women have some degree of risk to develop complications of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Similarly all pregnant women have some degree of risk of delivering preterm, mostly close to term but a smaller fraction will go on and deliver at severely preterm gestational ages.

BSBW: Are some women more likely to encounter risks during pregnancy?

Susan Gerber M.D.: Older moms may face a multitude of risks in pregnancy but the primary risk facing older mothers is really the risk of conceiving a baby with a chromosome abnormality. That significantly rises as maternal age increases. Beyond that the risks of other pregnancy-related complications for older mothers does rise as women age. The other end of the spectrum, for teenage moms, they do carry significantly increased risks of certain types of birth defects for reasons that aren't entirely clear and are similarly at risk for other complications of pregnancy including things like postpartum depression.

BSBW: What challenges do pre-existing conditions, like diabetes present?

Susan Gerber M.D.: For women who are high-risk, particularly in women who are diabetics, partnering with a medical team is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Not just during pregnancy but actually prior to pregnancy and in planning a pregnancy. Because often women will not recognize a pregnancy until the embryo's already started to develop. And it's the glucose control at around the time that they conceive, not just when the pregnancy is diagnosed that's so critical in the developing of, or the lack of development of, birth defects and successful pregnancy. So planning a pregnancy, speaking with a doctor before they get pregnant, having the best glucose control that they can possibly have and then conceiving is the best possible path to having a healthy pregnancy for a women with diabetes.

BSBW: All these risks can make pregnancy seem like a scary proposition.

Susan Gerber M.D.: One of the great things about this job is that regardless of the risks that we discuss presented by a pre-existing medical condition, someone's past obstetrical history, the vast majority of women with high-risk pregnancies will go on and do just fine. That's the wonderful nature of the body's ability to maintain a pregnancy in someone who's healthy enough to get pregnant. They will often - with or without intervention - go on and do fine.

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In this Issue

Table of Contents

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  • Feature Article | Healthy Start for Moms

    Diet and exercise tips for all stages of a mom’s life—before you’re pregnant, while you’re pregnant and when you have kids.


  • Ask the Expert | Managing Pregnancy Risks

    Learn more about pregnancy risks and the steps you can take to increase your chance for a healthy pregnancy. With obstetrician/gynecologist Susan Gerber, M.D., Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


  • Life Story Video | Melissa’s Story

    Melissa has diabetes, but she wasn’t going to let that get in her way of a healthy pregnancy. See how this young mom worked with her doctor to take control of her health and her pregnancy.


  • Ask the Expert | Childhood Obesity

    Learn about the childhood obesity epidemic in America and health risks faced by overweight kids. With pediatric cardiologist David Thoele, M.D., Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.


  • Life Story Video | Austin’s Story

    See how one mom’s decision to eat better and get active made a big difference for her whole family.


  • Challenge Yourself | Quick Quiz

    How much do you know about pregnancy? Take this quiz and test your healthy pregnancy smarts.