Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Placenta Previa

Placenta previa is a pregnancy complication where the placenta completely or partially covers the mother’s cervix.

Placenta previa is usually diagnosed during the third trimester and causes mild, painless bleeding that steadily increases as the placenta separates from the uterine wall.

There are different diagnosis’ of placenta previa depending on the extent of cervix coverage. They are:

  • Complete previa: This is where the cervical opening is completely covered. Complete previa requires a c-section.
  • Partial previa: A portion of the cervix is covered by the placenta.
  • Marginal previa: This is where the placenta extends to the edge of the cervix. Some women can give birth vaginally even with marginal previa.

Placenta previa FAQs

1. How often does placenta previa occur?

One in 200 women will be diagnosed with placenta previa. It is most common in women whose babies are wrongly positioned in the womb or fall under one of the following categories:

  • Have been previously diagnosed with placenta previa
  • Are younger than 20 years old
  • Had surgery on the uterus
  • Had a c-section,
  • Had multiple closely separated previous pregnancies
  • Had twins or triplets

Women diagnosed with placenta previa are advised to avoid:

  • Intercourse
  • Pelvic Exams
  • Travel

2. What are the symptoms of placenta previa?

The symptoms of placenta previa vary, but the most common is painless bleeding during the third trimester. Thirty-five percent of women who present with placenta previa also have abnormal positioning of the baby. The diagnosis is confirmed through an ultrasound as vaginal examinations are usually avoided.

Other symptoms of previa include:

  • Premature contractions
  • Larger uterus compared to gestational age

3. Is there treatment for placenta previa?

This condition cannot be prevented. Treatment is focused on ensuring the baby reaches full term. Women diagnosed usually require frequent hospital visits and bed rest. Sometimes the mother may experience uncontrollable bleeding that may require an immediate c-section regardless of how far along she is in her pregnancy.

Once diagnosed, further bleeding and complications may be avoided through bed rest. This is dependent on several factors, such as:

  • How far along the pregnancy is
  • The mother’s health
  • The amount of bleeding present
  • Baby’s health
  • The position of the placenta and the baby

4. What causes placenta previa?

The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but the following are said to increase the risk of developing it.

  • The mother is over 35.
  • She has had more than 4 pregnancies.
  • She has had uterine surgery.

5.  How do I cope with a diagnosis?

Your doctor, doula, or midwife should be able to help you through this time and assist you in finding support. Treatments will vary based on your symptoms; for example, the amount of bleeding.

  • Little or no bleeding.

In this case, your doctor will recommend bed rest at home. Sit or stand only when necessary and avoid sex as this may trigger more bleeding. You will need to be able to get to the hospital quickly if the bleeding starts again or becomes heavier. Your doctor may allow you to attempt a vaginal delivery but if heavy bleeding occurs, you will require a c-section.

  • Heavy bleeding.

Severe bleeding may require a blood transfusion and medications to prevent premature labor. As soon as the baby can be delivered safely, your doctor will most likely perform a c-section.

  • Uncontrollable bleeding.

If you are bleeding heavily and the baby is in distress, you will need a c-section even if the baby is premature.

6. What are the possible complications related to a placenta previa diagnosis?

  • Bleeding. Life-threatening bleeding can occur during labor, during delivery, or in the first few hours after delivery.
  • Preterm birth. Due to the risk of hemorrhage, your doctor may perform an emergency c-section.

Your doctor will monitor you continually to reduce the risk of complications.

7. What should I do now that I have placenta previa?

A diagnosis will definitely affect you and your family. Try the strategies below to stay calm, prepared, and positive during your pregnancy.

  • Learn about the complication.

Learning all you can about placenta previa will help you feel much less scared about it. If you can, connect with other women who were diagnosed with this pregnancy complication. Try to focus on finding and listening to instances in which the baby was born easily and perfectly healthy despite the placenta previa.

  • Prepare for a c-section.

Most cases of previa result in a c-section. If you were hoping for a natural birth, prepare mentally and communicate to your care providers what you hope to experience after delivery – skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, etc.

  • Make the best of bed rest

Stay in bed. Take the time you have in bed to read about newborn care, balance your checkbook, or catch up on thank you notes. Let your friends, partner, and family know what you need them to help you with.

Basically, take care of you, Momma!


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