Placenta Previa

Placenta Previa SymptomsPlacenta Previa, a medical condition in which the placenta of an unborn baby unnaturally rests upon the cervix of the pregnant mother, is a known childbirth medical complications, which can lead to significant hemorrhaging both prior to and during the childbirth process. According to the National Institute of Health, this problem happens in 1 out of every 200 pregnancies. Generally speaking, the first warning signs of placenta previa in a pregnant woman appear during the late second or third trimester of a pregnancy in the form of bright red vaginally bleeding. At this point, most pregnant women consult with obstetricians, while sometimes admitting themselves to the emergency room.

The Importance of Placental Placement in Pregnancy and Childbirth

The placenta, which is a natural amniotic-fluid filled sac surrounding the unborn child in the uterus, provides oxygen and nutrients to a developing unborn infant, while also removing waste products from the unborn child’s bloodstream. In a normal pregnancy, the placenta attaches itself to the wall of a woman’s uterus near the upper portion of the uterine wall, with the umbilical cord of the child developing from these tissues. In cases of placenta previa, the placenta situates itself in the lower portion of the uterine wall, while either blocking partially or wholly opening of the cervix. While movement of the placenta during the course of the pregnancy is normal, placenta previa cases present serious risks and complications should a vaginal birth be attempted. The main issue with placenta previa is that it causes severe bleeding before, during, or after delivery, endangering the life of both the mother and the child.

Common Symptoms of Placenta Previa in Pregnant Mothers

While the most common symptom notifying a mother of an undeniable issue in her pregnancy remains vaginal bleeding, other symptoms associated with placenta previa include:
  • Light to heavy vaginal bleeding with a noticeably bright red color due to the highly oxygenated blood
  • Early onset contractions
  • Cramping or vaginal pain
Any pregnant woman with vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should consult with a medical professional immediately. In the case of placenta previa, the bleeding can become sufficiently severe as to be life threatening to both mother and child.

Known Risk Factors Increasing the Likelihood of Placenta Previa

Known factors that increase the probability of placenta previa developing during the childbirth process include the following:
  • Mother is over the age of 35 years old
  • Mother has underwent a prior uterine surgical procedure
  • Mother presents an irregularly shaped uterus
  • Prior pregnancies for the mother, or births involving more than one child at a time
  • Smoking and other substance use during or prior to pregnancy
  • Pregnancy achieved via in vitro fertilization

Placenta Previa Treatment Methods

If diagnosed with placenta previa, expecting mothers will likely be ordered to refrain from physical portion for the remainder of their pregnancy. Moreover, mothers presenting placenta previa complications should expect to undergo a caesarean section (c-section) birth as a medical necessity. Prior to birth, however, the treatment recommended for a woman with placenta previa depends on a variety of factors, including the cause of the condition. In considering placenta previa treatment options, an obstetrician weighs the risk of delivering the baby early to the risk of ongoing bleeding. Delivery of the baby is preferred after 36 weeks when the lungs are more developed; however, other important determining factors that may override this consideration include the amount of bleeding, the overall health of the woman, and the health of the baby. For cases presenting light bleeding, or if the bleeding has stopped, most doctors recommend reducing all physical activities and/or bed rest for a few days to a few weeks. Sex, exercise, and any physical exertion are also prohibited during this time. Heavy bleeding often requires bed rest in a hospital setting while under medical supervision until the hemorrhaging is reduced or stopped entirely. For women who have lost too much blood, a transfusion may be necessary. Physicians may also prescribe a number of medications. The drugs used are to prevent premature labor from occurring, to continue the pregnancy to at least 36 weeks, and/or steroid injections to help the baby's lungs develop faster. In cases of heavy bleeding, doctors seek to deliver the baby by caesarean section (c-section), preferably after 36 weeks of pregnancy. Ultimately, placenta previa treatment is different for every woman. However, most women with this medical problem can expect significant bed rest and a C-section, with this delivery method being in the best medical interests of both mother and child in light of the partial or total blockage of the cervix by the placenta. Sources:
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