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Labor & Delivery Guide

Rosa Cabrera RN

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Placenta Previa

By Dita Faulkner
 
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Placenta previa develops when the placenta blocks the mother’s cervix. This condition can lead to excessive bleeding. What exactly happens when a woman has placenta previa? How common is it?

First, it is best to discuss what the placenta’s function is under normal circumstances. This is an organ that grows right after conception. Its purpose is to provide oxygen and much needed nutrients to the unborn child. It’s also responsible for filtering waste products from the baby’s blood. It connects to the mother (wall of the uterus) to the baby.

With placenta previa, however, this organ connects itself too low in the uterus, sometimes partially or totally covering the cervix. During labor, when the cervix starts to dilate, the placenta can start to detach and severe bleeding can begin.

The good news is that this condition is rare and is almost always detected beforehand. This is why regular, prenatal visits are very important -- a sure way of early detection. But between scheduled visits, if you have any vaginal bleeding, especially within the second and third trimester of your pregnancy, it is best to contact your physician as soon as possible.

Placenta previa may be a concern if you:

• Have already delivered one baby previously
• Have had a C-section before
• Have had placenta previa previously
• Are 35 years of age or older
• Are Asian
• Smoke
• Are expecting multiples -- twins, triplets, etc.
• Have had a previous uterine surgery -- such as myomectomy or dilation and curettage

Your doctor can diagnose this condition with a pregnancy ultrasound. So after you’ve found out that you have this condition -- then what? What kind of treatment can you expect?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it depends on the factors involved such as the degree of vaginal bleeding, if the bleeding has stopped, the gestational age of the baby, the status of your health and the location the placenta and baby is in. For instance, if you have marginal placenta previa (where the placenta is near the edge of the cervix) and little or no bleeding, your doctor may just recommend bed rest at home.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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