Placental abruption (abruptio placentae) is an uncommon yet serious complication of pregnancy. The placenta develops in the uterus during pregnancy. It attaches to the wall of the uterus and supplies the baby with nutrients and oxygen.
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partly or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. This can decrease or block the baby's supply of oxygen and nutrients and cause heavy bleeding within the mother.
Placental abruption often happens suddenly. Left untreated, it endangers both the mother and the baby.
Placental abruption is presumably to occur within the last trimester of pregnancy, especially within the previous couple of weeks before birth. Signs and symptoms of placental abruption include:
Ø Vaginal bleeding, although there might not be any
Ø Abdominal pain
Ø Back pain
Ø Uterine tenderness or rigidity
Abdominal pain and back pain often begin suddenly. The amount of vaginal bleeding can vary greatly, and doesn't necessarily indicate what proportion of the placenta has separated from the uterus. It's possible for the blood to become trapped inside the uterus, so even with a severe placental abruption, there could be no visible bleeding.
In some cases, placental abruption develops slowly (chronic abruption), which may cause light, intermittent vaginal bleeding. Your baby might not grow as quickly as expected, and you might have low amniotic fluid or other complications.
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency care if you've got signs or symptoms of placental abruption.
The cause of placental abruption is often unknown. Possible causes include trauma or injury to the abdomen — from an auto accident or fall, for instance — or rapid loss of the fluid that surrounds and cushions the baby in the uterus (amniotic fluid).
Factors which will increase the danger of placental abruption include:
Ø Placental abruption in a previous pregnancy that wasn't caused by abdominal trauma
Ø Chronic high blood pressure (hypertension)
Ø A fall or other type of blow to the abdomen
Ø Cocaine use during pregnancy
Ø Early rupture of membranes, which causes leaking amniotic fluid before the end of pregnancy
Ø Infection inside of the uterus during pregnancy (chorioamnionitis)
Ø Being older, especially older than 40
You can't prevent placental abruption, but you'll decrease certain risk factors. For example, don't smoke or use illegal drugs, like cocaine. If you've got high vital sign, work together with your health care provider to watch the condition.
Always wear your seatbelt when in a motor vehicle. If you've had abdominal trauma — from an auto accident, fall or other injury — seek immediate medical help.
If you've had a placental abruption, and you're planning another pregnancy, ask your health care provider before you plan to see if there are ways to scale back the danger of another abruption.
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