The placenta is the baby’s lifeline during pregnancy, it’s an organ which grows in the womb and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord; it provides baby with Oxygen and nutrients which pass from your blood supply into the placenta and are then carried to your baby via the umbilical cord; carbon dioxide and other waste products are also carried away from the baby by the umbilical cord to the placenta and then into your bloodstream for disposal. Hormones produced by the placenta help your baby grow and develop; It offers your baby protection against bacterial infections while in the womb, and towards the end of pregnancy it passes antibodies from you to your baby which should give him or her immunity for about three months after birth. However, it only passes on antibodies that you already have. In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches at the top or side of the uterus. Placenta previa occurs when a baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix, which can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery.
If you have placenta previa, then you may bleed throughout pregnancy and during delivery; and your doctor will probably recommend that you avoid certain activities, such as, having sex and running. If the placenta previa is diagnosed early in pregnancy then there is a chance that the placenta will move as the uterus grows, however, If the placenta doesn’t move then you will need a caesarean section. You should call your doctor if you have vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester, and if the bleeding is severe then you should seek emergency care.
An ultrasound scan will be used to diagnose placenta previa, and you will probably need extra ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy to check the position of the placenta.
There is no medical treatment for placenta previa, however there are ways to manage the bleeding; the recommendations will depend on various factors:
For little or no bleeding
- Pelvic Rest – avoiding activities that can trigger bleeding, such as sex and exercise.
- Seek emergency care if bleeding starts.
- If the placenta is low lying but doesn’t cover the cervix, you might be able to have a vaginal delivery. Your health care provider will discuss this option with you.
For heavy bleeding
- Seek immediate emergency help, Some women with severe bleeding may require a blood transfusion.
- A Caesarean will be planned for as soon as the baby can be delivered safely (ideally after 36 weeks of pregnancy)
- If bleeding persists you may need an earlier delivery and you will be offered steroids to mature your baby’s lungs.
For bleeding that won’t stop
- If your bleeding can’t be controlled or your baby is in distress, you’ll need an emergency C-section — even if the baby is premature
Although the cause of placenta previa is largely unknown, there are certain things that have been found to increase the risk. These are:
- Have had a baby before
- Have scars on the uterus from previous surgery (caesarean deliveries, uterine fibroid removal, and dilation and curettage)
- Had placenta previa with a previous pregnancy
- Multiple pregnancy
- Are age 35 or older
You will be monitored to reduce the risk of serious complications such as:
- Severe bleeding (haemorrhage) which can occur during labour, delivery or in the first few hours after birth.
- Severe bleeding may prompt an emergency C-section before your baby is full term.
Have you experienced placenta previa? What was the outcome? What support did your care provider offer you?