What Is Placenta Previa?

There are lots of things your doctor is looking for when you go in for your twenty week ultrasound when you are pregnant.  They are checking how the baby is growing, what position the baby is in, where the umbilical cord is laying and where your placenta is in your uterus.  If your placenta is low and is covering or partially covering your cervix this is called placenta previa.  This isn’t always concerning, but can be. 

Sometimes when placenta previa is diagnosed early on such at your twenty week ultrasound the cause for concern isn’t as great because your uterus will continue growing as your pregnancy progresses, allowing your placenta room to migrate upwards away from your cervix. 


Types Of Placenta Previa

There are four different types of placenta previa; partial, low lying, marginal or complete.  Partial and low lying placenta previa still allow you to have the chance of a vaginal delivery, when marginal or complete almost always end with having a c-section delivery.  Complete placenta previa is the most serious type, delivery will always need to be done via c-section and usually delivering the baby before full term.


Causes & Risks

The cause of placenta previa is unknown but there are some things that can make you more at risk.  If you have had a previous c-section you could be more at risk of having placenta previa, as well as having a previous pregnancy where you had placenta previa.  Carrying multiples in your pregnancy can put you more at risk.  Other risks include prior miscarriages, being 35 years old or older, if you smoke, or do drugs you can also be at a higher risk.  



You may not have any symptoms at the time you are diagnosed.  Usually placenta previa will be found at your twenty week ultrasound. 

Sometimes you can experience some symptoms with placenta previa.  You may experience cramps, sharp pains, bleeding that stops and starts over a course of a few weeks, or bleeding after intercourse.  If your placenta previa continues throughout your pregnancy you may experience bleeding throughout your second half of your pregnancy as well as uterine contractions. 



If placenta previa is diagnosed you will be put on pelvic rest, with no intercourse allowed, and no pelvic exams will be performed.  At this point you will have repeated ultrasounds at following appointments to check the position of the placenta as your pregnancy progresses. 

If you are diagnosed with this at your twenty week appointment usually the placenta previa corrects itself.  When your uterus grows it gives your placenta more room to move away from your cervix.  

Treatment depends on the severity of the placenta previa.  If you are diagnosed with it at your twenty week appointment your doctor may put you on exercise restrictions, and pelvic rest.  If it is more severe you may be put on bed rest where you are only allowed to stand when necessary, no exercise at all, and no intercourse. 

If you suffer from heavy bleeding as a symptom you may need to have a transfusion to get back the blood you have lost as well as be put on medicine to prevent preterm labor.  If you experience uncontrollable bleeding you will need to go to the emergency room immediately to probably have an emergency c-section.



Placenta previa usually doesn’t cause any immediate harm.  It is only when it progresses through the pregnancy till the end when it can be some concern.  This is because with the placenta being so low covering part or all of the opening at the cervix it makes delivering the baby vaginally dangerous.  Your doctor will suggest having a c-section delivery usually around the 34-35 week mark to ensure that you don’t go into spontaneous labor.  This does put your baby at higher risk since they will be prematurely born, as well as put you at risk of having other premature babies in later pregnancies.  With placenta previa there are some complications that can arise.  If you deliver vaginally you are at a higher risk of heavy bleeding during delivery which can be dangerous for both mom and baby.  As well you could be at a higher risk of placenta acreta which is where the placenta doesn’t separate easily after birth.  



Placenta previa almost always fixes itself when diagnosed early on in a pregnancy.  Only when it is one of the more serious types of placenta previa will there be more medical intervention than any other regular pregnancy.  If you do have placenta previa in your second half of your pregnancy you will most likely be put on some type of limit of movement and exercise as well as your doctor will want to schedule a c-section for you to help ensure a safe delivery for you and your baby.  



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