Placenta abruptio is a
pregnancy problem in which the placenta separates too early from the wall of the uterus. The
placenta is a round, flat organ that forms during
pregnancy. It gives the baby food and oxygen from the mother.
In a normal
pregnancy, the placenta stays firmly attached to the inside wall of the
uterus until after the baby is born.
In placenta abruptio, the placenta breaks away (abrupts) from the wall of the uterus too
early, before the baby is born.
Placenta abruptio can be very harmful. In rare cases, it can be deadly.
The baby may be born too early (premature) or at a low birth weight.
The mother may lose a lot of blood.
Placenta abruptio usually occurs in the third
trimester. But it can happen at any time after the
20th week of pregnancy. It is also called abruptio
placenta or placental abruption.
What causes placenta abruptio?
Doctors aren't sure what causes it, but
some things can raise your risk. These are
called risk factors. Common risk factors for placenta abruptio include:
High blood pressure (140/90 or higher). This is the biggest risk factor for placenta abruptio, whether the high blood pressure is a long-term problem or
is caused by the pregnancy (preeclampsia).
Having had placenta abruptio before.
Smoking during pregnancy.
Less common risk factors include:
Having a scar from
a past surgery or a
uterine fibroid where the placenta has attached to the
wall of the uterus.
Having an injury to the uterus. This could
occur because of a car accident, a fall, or physical abuse.
If you have placenta
abruptio, you may notice one or more warning signs. Call your doctor right away
if you are pregnant and you:
Have light to moderate bleeding from your vagina.
Have a painful or sore uterus. It
might also feel hard or rigid.
Have signs of early labor. These include
regular contractions and aches or pains in your lower back or belly.
Notice that your baby is moving less than usual.
You can't really tell how serious placenta
abruptio is by the
amount of vaginal bleeding. Sometimes the blood gets trapped between the placenta
and the wall of the uterus. So there might be a serious problem even if there is
only a little bleeding.
Call 911 or
emergency services right away if you have:
If you have lost a lot of blood, you may need a blood transfusion.
If your baby is premature, he or she may be treated in a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. The NICU is geared to the needs of premature or ill newborns.
Can you prevent placenta abruptio?
There is no sure way to prevent placenta abruptio, but you can do things to lower your risk. Your risk is much higher than normal if you have had placenta abruptio before, so these steps are very important.
If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's treatment advice.
Don't smoke while you're pregnant.
Don't use illegal drugs, like cocaine and meth.
Get regular prenatal checkups throughout your pregnancy.
Take 0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid every day.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
March of Dimes
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies
by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes
supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies'
lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth
defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.