Placenta Previa

Bleeding can happen at any time
during pregnancy. Placenta previa can cause bleeding late in pregnancy. This means
after
about 20 weeks.

When the placenta is attached close
to the opening of the uterus (cervix) or covers the cervix, it is called placenta
previa. There are 3 types of placenta previa:

  • Complete placenta previa. The
    placenta completely covers the cervix.
  • Partial placenta previa. The placenta
    is partly over the cervix.
  • Marginal placenta previa. The
    placenta is near the edge of the cervix.

Researchers don’t know what causes
placenta previa. It is more likely to happen with certain conditions. These include:

  • Past pregnancies
  • Tumors (fibroids) in the uterus. These
    are not cancer.
  • Past uterine surgeries or cesarean
    deliveries
  • Woman who is older than 35
  • Woman who is African American or of
    another nonwhite ethnic background
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Placenta previa in a past
    pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with a boy

The most common symptom of placenta
previa is bright red, painless bleeding from the vagina. This is most common in the
third trimester of pregnancy.

The symptoms of placenta previa may
look like other health conditions. Make sure to see your healthcare provider for a
diagnosis.

Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history. He or she will do a physical exam. The provider will also
do
an ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the organs. It
can
show where the placenta is and how much is covering the cervix. You may have a
transvaginal ultrasound instead.

An ultrasound may show that a
placenta is near the cervix in early pregnancy. But only a few women will develop
true
placenta previa. It is common for the placenta to move away from the cervix as the
uterus grows.

There is no treatment to change the
position of the placenta. You may need:

  • More ultrasounds to track where the
    placenta is
  • Bed rest or hospital stay 
  • Early delivery of the baby. This will
    be based on how much bleeding you have, how far along your baby is, and how healthy
    the baby is.
  • Cesarean section delivery
  • Blood transfusion for severe blood
    loss

The greatest risk of placenta
previa is too much bleeding (hemorrhage). Bleeding often happens as the lower part
of
the uterus thins during the third trimester of pregnancy. This causes the area of
the
placenta over the cervix to bleed. The risk of bleeding is higher if a lot of the
placenta covers the cervix. Other complications include:

  • Placenta doesn’t attach to the uterus
    as it should
  • Slowed growth of your baby in the
    uterus
  • Preterm birth (before 37 weeks of
    pregnancy)
  • Birth defects

Call your healthcare provider about
any bleeding you have while pregnant. Bleeding during pregnancy may not be serious.
If
the bleeding is moderate to severe, or you have pain, contact your healthcare provider
right away.

  • Placenta previa is a cause of bleeding
    late in pregnancy. This is after about 20 weeks.
  • It causes bleeding because the
    placenta is close to or covers the cervix.
  • Bleeding with placenta previa is
    painless.
  • You may need bed rest or early
    delivery of your baby.

Tips to help you get the most from
a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and
    what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down
    questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask
    questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a
    new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
    instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment
    is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated
    in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is
    recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take
    the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment,
    write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider
    if you have questions.