Complications during pregnancy can be frightening. With a little basic knowledge, you can feel more prepared than afraid.
Placenta previa is a complication to be aware of when pregnant. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta implants low in the uterus and part of it covers the cervix (see photo below).
About 15% of women are diagnosed with a degree of placenta previa during their second trimester. The majority of these resolve on their own when the placenta moves up and away from the cervix. About .5% (note, point-five percent, not five percent) of expecting women are diagnosed during the third trimester when the placenta is unlikely to budge.
Degrees of Placenta Previa:
(In all degrees the placenta physically blocks the opening to the birth canal)
Complete: Placenta covers the entire cervical opening.
Partial: Placenta covers part of the cervical opening.
Marginal: Placenta borders the cervix.
How is it Treated?
This depends on where in your pregnancy you are and whether or not you are experiencing bleeding. Depending on the amount of bleeding, you may require a blood transfusion. The health of your baby will also affect what your treatment is. A cesarean birth is used for nearly all women with placenta previa. Once the baby has functioning lungs, your caretaker will probably recommend the c-section.
You are at a higher risk for placenta previa if you’re 35 or older, you’ve been pregnant before, and you smoke. We aren’t sure how to prevent this complication, but by avoiding previous c-sections unless necessary and staying away from cocaine and cigarettes, it looks like you can reduce your risk.
What to do if you have it?
Learning you have placenta previa can be a very upsetting. Luckily, there are support groups mothers with many different issues available to help you. Your doctor can assist you in finding support groups or other women who have also had the same condition.