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
• 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.
Sex, exercise and vaginal exams will be off-limits. Sitting and standing will be allowed when needed. Other prohibitions will be given out by your doctor as it befits your situation.
Finally, remember whatever the treatment plan, it is very important to be obedient. If not, there can be very serious complications such as premature births. In cases such as these, prenatal visits are highly important for early detection.
Placenta Previa. Mayo Clinic. Web. 1 December 2011.
PubMed: Placenta Previa. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 1 December 2011.
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Reviewed December 7, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith