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Placenta Previa

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Placenta Previa is a rare medical condition. Less than a million cases of placenta previa occur each year in India. It occurs when the placenta blocks the uterus opening; it interferes with the natural process of childbirth.

The placenta is a sac-like organ that develops in the mother’s uterus during pregnancy. It provides nutrition and oxygen to the baby and removes the waste products from the womb. The placenta detaches from the uterus on the birth of the baby.

In most pregnancies, the placenta is present in the lower part of the uterus during the early stages. As the pregnancy develops, the uterus stretches to accommodate the growing baby. The placenta moves to the top of the uterus and allows the uterine opening a clear passage to deliver the baby.

Placenta Previa occurs when the placenta stays attached to the lower part of the uterus, blocking the opening either partly or entirely.

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What are the Causes of Placenta Previa?

Although there are no specific causes of Placenta Previa, certain factors can increase the risk.

You are at risk of developing Placenta Previa if you have:

  • ● Breech or transverse positioning of the baby in the womb
  • ● Previous surgeries of the uterus
  • ● History of multiple pregnancies
  • ● History of placenta previa
  • ● Had previous miscarriages
  • ● Uterine abnormalities
  • ● A large placenta
  • ● Age is over 35 years
  • ● History of smoking or cocaine use

What are the Symptoms of Placenta Previa?

The most prevalent symptom of Placenta Previa is bleeding from the vagina. The bleeding usually occurs in the second and third trimester and can range from light to heavy.

Other symptoms of Placenta Previa include:

  • ● Cramps
  • ● Sharp pain in the lower abdomen
  • ● Bleeding from the vagina after intercourse

Severe uncontrollable bleeding from the vagina is a medical emergency. If you have any of the above symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor immediately.

How is Placenta Previa Diagnosed?

A routine scan can detect placenta previa. The signs usually present by the 20th week of pregnancy in ultrasound scans.

If you have vaginal bleeding and if your doctors suspect placenta previa, they will advise you for an ultrasound. A combination of an abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound scan can determine the placental position.

In the transvaginal scan, a probe placed in the vagina scans your uterus for the placenta previa. Your doctor will take precautions during the transvaginal scan to avoid disturbing the placenta and causing complications. If you have placenta previa, your doctor will prefer to avoid a transvaginal scan for routine examinations.

How is Placenta Previa Treated?

The treatment approach differs for each case of placenta previa. The treatment approach depends on the following:

  • ● Position of your placenta
  • ● Type of placenta previa
  • ● Progress of your pregnancy
  • ● Baby’s growth and development
  • ● The severity of your symptoms

Above all, the amount of bleeding dictates the treatment choice for Placenta Previa.

Minimal to no bleeding

If you have minimal to no bleeding from your vagina, your doctor will advise you on bed rest for managing your placenta previa.

You are only allowed to stand and move around for unavoidable circumstances. It is advisable to avoid all strenuous activities such as exercise and intercourse to allow your pelvis some rest.

Heavy bleeding

If you have heavy vaginal bleeding, your doctor will advise a hospital stay to ensure complete bed rest. If the bleeding is excessive, you may require blood transfusions to compensate. You will need to take specific medications and supplements to prevent premature labour .

The goal of treatment in these cases is to ensure the childbirth occurs safely and at full term. You will undergo a cesarean surgery once the baby has grown and has developed its lungs. If the lungs are underdeveloped, doctors prescribe medications such as corticosteroids to the baby.

Uncontrollable bleeding

Uncontrollable bleeding with placenta previa is a medical emergency. It requires emergency cesarean surgery to stop blood loss.

What is the Results of Placenta Previa Treatment?

About 90% of Placenta Previa detected in early pregnancy can resolve itself by the third trimester. With the uterus expanding as the pregnancy develops, the placenta moves upwards in the uterus, freeing the uterine opening.

In partial Placenta Previa, the placenta only covers the uterine opening partly. Normal vaginal delivery can still be possible in such a case.

Complete Placenta Previa will require cesarean surgery to deliver the baby. Recovery occurs within a few months if the baby is born near full term.

What are the Risks Associated with Placenta Previa treatments?

The risks of cesarean section for managing Placenta Previa include:

  • ● Infection of the uterine lining
  • ● Reactions to anaesthesia
  • ● Excessive bleeding and haemorrhage
  • ● Blood clots
  • ● Increased risk to future pregnancies

If the baby is preterm, your baby may have breathing troubles, risk of low birth weight, and injuries to the brain. Your baby will require medical attention and ICU stay.

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What Happens in Placenta Previa?

In Placenta Previa, the placenta blocks the opening of your uterus. It prevents a clear pathway during childbirth.

Is Placenta Previa likely to Go Away?

Placenta Previa in the early stages of pregnancy can resolve by itself due to the uterine expansion in 90% of the cases.

Is Placenta Previa a High-Risk Complication?

Placenta Previa can cause excessive bleeding during pregnancy and childbirth, putting both you and your baby at serious health risk.

Does Bed Rest Help in Placenta Previa?

In Placenta Previa with minimal to no bleeding, bed rest can help. Resting in bed and moving around only when unavoidable will prevent additional stress on the pelvic organs.

Can Placenta Previa Result in Defects in Babies?

Placenta Previa requires cesarean surgeries; most women deliver before full term. Preterm babies are likely to have underdeveloped lungs that can cause breathing difficulties, low birth weight, and increased cerebral palsy risk.

What should I Avoid if I Have Placenta Previa?

If you have Placenta Previa, avoid strenuous activities such as exercise. Doctors also advise to avoid intercourse in the later stages of pregnancy to prevent disruption of the placenta. In case of bleeding, it is best to avoid inserting cups or tampons and switch to a pad instead.


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