Placental Abruption

(Premature Separation of Placenta; Ablatio Placentae; Abruptio Placentae)


Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before the fetus is delivered. The placenta is the organ that provides nourishment for the fetus while it is still in the uterus. In a healthy pregnancy, the placenta remains attached to the uterine wall until after the fetus is delivered.Some form of the condition affects about one in every 150 births. In very severe forms, placental abruption can cause death to the fetus. This occurs less commonly. Death of the mother from placental abruption is very rare.Placental abruption can cause:
  • Premature delivery
  • Fetal anemia
  • Low birth weight
  • Significant blood loss for the mother
  • Fetal death
Placental Abruption
Placental Abruption
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The direct cause of placental abruption is not clearly understood. It may be a combination of several events. These may include:
  • Impaired formation and structure of the placenta
  • Low oxygen levels inside the uterus
  • Rupture of maternal artery or vein which causes bleeding behind the placental wall
  • Injury to the abdomen from an accident or a fall
  • Sudden decrease in the volume of the uterus, from significant loss of amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of placental abruption:
  • Previous placental abruption in a prior pregnancy
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy—pre-eclampsia
  • Pregnancy during older age
  • Multiple previous deliveries
  • Excessively distended uterus
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Drug misuse, especially cocaine

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