Placental Abruption

Though you may not think much about it, your placenta is a very important part of your pregnancy. Your placenta is actually an organ, which helps to deliver nutrients, blood, and oxygen to your baby.

Typically, the placenta functions normally until birth, helping your baby grow strong and healthy. Sometimes, however, the placenta can develop problems, causing risks for you and your baby. Placental abruption is one placental complication that can occur during your pregnancy.

What is Placental Abruption?
Like placenta previa, placental abruption is a pregnancy complication that affects your placenta. It causes your placenta to detach from your uterus before labor and delivery.

Typically, the placenta detaches after your baby is delivered. Sometimes though, the placenta begins to peel away from the uterus early. This can threaten your baby's oxygen and food supply as well as your own health.

What Causes Placental Abruption?
The cause of placental abruption is still unknown. However, it is thought that certain factors may contribute to placental abruption in some women. These include:

  • having gestational diabetes
  • having preeclampsia
  • smoking during pregnancy

Who's At Risk?
Placental abruption is not that uncommon, occurring in about 1 of every 120 births. It typically affects women in their third trimesters, though it can occur anytime after the 20th week. While any woman can develop placental abruption, it appears that certain women are at increased risk. Risk factors include:

  • having had a previous abruption
  • chronic hypertension
  • carrying multiples
  • being over age 35
  • smoking
  • using cocaine
  • having uterine fibroids

Symptoms of Placental Abruption
The main sign of placental abruption is dark red vaginal bleeding. This bleeding may be slight or it may be quite profuse.

However, some women with placental abruption do not have any visible bleeding. Instead, blood clots hide behind their placenta, making it difficult to see.

Other symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain or tenderness
  • nausea
  • excessive thirst
  • fainting
  • decrease in baby's movements
  • cramping
  • severe contractions that don't go away
  • blood in amniotic fluid


Table of Contents
1. Placental Abruption
2. Is it serious?
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