Placenta Previa

Definition

The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. Its purpose is to nourish the baby. Oxygen and nutrients pass through the placenta to the baby. Waste products pass back out to the mother’s bloodstream.Placenta previa occurs when the placenta becomes implanted near or over the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. With this condition, the placenta may cover part or all of the cervix. This condition is only diagnosed after 20 weeks of gestation.
Placenta Previa
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Causes

Possible causes of placenta previa include:
  • A scarred endometrium (the lining of the uterus)
  • A large placenta
  • An abnormal uterus
  • Abnormal formation of the placenta
Placenta previa can cause problems in pregnancy and birth. These include:
  • Abnormal bleeding, sometimes heavy
  • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus
  • Premature birth
  • Emergency cesarean (c-section) delivery
  • Problems with penetration of the placenta into the uterine muscle or through the entire uterine wall

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of placenta previa:
  • Previous cesarean section
  • Uterine problems
  • Multiple pregnancy—two or more fetuses
  • Multiple previous full-term pregnancies
  • Increased age
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Placenta previa symptoms vary depending on how much of the cervical opening is covered. The main symptom is painless bleeding from the vagina. This bleeding can range from light to very heavy. It usually occurs suddenly during late pregnancy. Spotting that occurs early in pregnancy may point to placenta previa.Anything that disrupts the placenta, such as sexual intercourse, or a digital exam of the vagina and cervix, may cause bleeding.

Complications

Complications of placenta previa include:
  • Major bleeding
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Increased likelihood of a blood transfusion
  • Premature birth, which occurs when an infant is less than 37 weeks of gestation
  • Fetal blood loss during labor
  • Shock
  • Maternal or fetal death

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