Placenta previa is a pregnancy complication in which the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix and cause bleeding during pregnancy and delivery.
If you are pregnant, it is important to be aware of placenta previa. This is a condition where the placenta attaches too low in the uterus and can cause serious problems for both mother and baby. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of placenta previa and treatment options.
What is placenta previa?
Placenta previa is a pregnancy complication in which the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix. This can cause bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. Placenta previa is a relatively rare condition, occurring in about 0.33% of pregnancies.
During pregnancy, the placenta is a structure that develops within your uterus and gives oxygen and nutrition to your baby while also removing waste from him. The placenta is linked to your baby by the umbilical cord. In most cases, the placenta settles at the top or side of the uterus.
If you have placenta previa, you may experience vaginal bleeding throughout your pregnancy and during delivery. If activities that might induce contractions, such as sex, douching, tampon use, or other activities that can raise the risk of bleeding, are avoided, a C-section will be required to deliver your baby.
What causes placenta previa?
Placenta previa has no known cause, although the following hypotheses have been put forward.
- Dropping down theory: The fertilized ovum drops down and is implanted in the lower segment due to poor decidual reaction in the upper part of the uterus.
- The placenta’s huge surface area, like in twins, may usurp the lower region.
- Defective decidua: If a woman has had many abortions or miscarriages, the decidua (the part of the uterus that is shed during menstruation) may be defective. This can lead to poor implantation of the placenta, which may cause it to drop down into the lower segment.
What are the risk factors for placenta previa?
Some risk factors may increase your chances of developing placenta previa. These include:
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets
- Having had a previous C-section
- Smoking cigarettes
- Use of certain medications, such as steroids
- Increased maternal age (>35 years)
- If you have scars on your uterus, whether from previous surgery or other causes
Types of placenta previa
There are four types of placenta previa:
Type I, or low-lying placenta, is when the placenta lies close to the cervical os (opening) but does not cover it. This type of placenta previa is the most common, occurring in about 70% of cases.
Type- II or marginal previa, is when the placenta reaches the margin of the internal os but does not cover it.
Type III, or partial previa, is when the placenta partially covers the cervical os. This type occurs in about 25% of cases.
Type IV, or complete previa, is when the placenta completely covers the cervical os. This is the most severe type of placenta previa and occurs in about 5% of cases.
What are the symptoms of placenta previa?
The most common symptom of placenta previa is vaginal bleeding. This can range from light spotting to heavy bleeding. The bleeding may be constant, or it may come and go. The bleeding is most common during the second and third trimesters.
Bleeding may be pretty serious and even deadly. It might be controlled on its own, but it can resume later days or weeks.
Other symptoms of placenta previa can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Passing of blood clots
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your healthcare provider.
How is placenta previa diagnosed?
Placenta previa is typically diagnosed during a routine ultrasound. An ultrasound is a painless test that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Your healthcare provider will look for the placenta to be low-lying or covering the cervical os.
In some cases, placenta previa can only be diagnosed during labor. This is because the placenta can move during pregnancy and may no longer be covering the cervical os by the time you go into labor.
If your health care provider thinks that you might have placenta previa, they will avoid routine vaginal checks to minimize the chance of severe bleeding.
What are the complications of placenta previa?
The main complication of placenta previa is heavy bleeding. This can be life-threatening for both you and your baby.
Other complications of placenta previa can include:
- Blood transfusions
- Varying degrees of shock
- Cord prolapse
- Slow dilatation of the cervix
- Retained placenta
- Intrauterine death
- Birth injuries
- Congenital malformation
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Cesarean section
Women who have had a previous C-section are at an increased risk for uterine rupture. This is a serious complication that can be life-threatening.
If you have placenta previa, it is important to be aware of the risks and complications. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you have.
How to prevent placenta previa?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent placenta previa. However, some things may help lower your risk:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Get regular prenatal care
- Keep your weight under control
- Antenatal diagnosis of low lying placenta
- The significance of “warning hemorrhage” should not be ignored
- Placenta previa is less likely in couples who plan their children and limit the number of births
If you have had placenta previa in the past, you are at an increased risk of it happening again in future pregnancies. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to prevent another placenta previa.
How is placenta previa treated?
If you have placenta previa, your healthcare provider will likely recommend that you stay on bed rest. This can help to minimize the risk of heavy bleeding. You may also be advised to avoid sexual intercourse, vaginal exams, and douching.
If you have heavy bleeding, you may need a blood transfusion. In some cases, you may need to be hospitalized.
If you are pregnant with placenta previa and near your due date, your healthcare provider may recommend inducing labor or performing a C-section. This is typically done when the placenta is low-lying or partially covering the cervical os.
A C-section is typically performed when the placenta completely covers the cervical os. This is because the placenta can block the baby’s exit during vaginal delivery.
What is the outlook for women with placenta previa?
The outlook for women with placenta previa is generally good. With proper treatment and monitoring, most women go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
However, there are some risks. Placenta previa can lead to heavy bleeding, which can be life-threatening. If you have placenta previa, it is important to be aware of the risks and complications. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you have.