Placenta Praevia: What Is It and What to Do?

Placenta praevia, or a low lying placenta, is a condition that affects a small percentage of mums-to-be. It involves the abnormal growth and positioning of the placenta, the organ that brings nutrients and oxygen to and takes away waste from the foetus. Read on to learn more about this condition and the best ways to treat and manage it.

What Is Placenta Praevia?

In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches itself to the side or top part of the uterus. Placenta praevia is a rare condition in which the placenta lies low in the uterus and partially (partial placenta praevia) or completely covers the cervix (total placenta praevia, also known as major placenta praevia) . This can cause severe bleeding upon delivery or even during pregnancy.

Many women who are diagnosed with a low lying placenta early in their pregnancy find that placenta moves upwards as the uterus enlarges, however, if the placenta is still lying low in the uterus at 32 weeks it will not resolve by itself. Also, if you've have a caesarean section before, this reduces the chances of the placenta moving upwards.

Types of Placenta Praevia

What Are the Symptoms of Placenta Praevia?

The main sign of placenta praevia is painless bleeding from the vagina in the second half of the pregnancy. Call your GP or doctor if you experience any vaginal bleeding in your second or third trimester or if you experience contractions. Seek emergency medical care if bleeding is severe.

What Risks Are There With Placenta Praevia?

It's important that your doctor monitors both you and your baby to reduce the risk of complications. The possible placenta praevia risks are:

  • Severe bleeding. This can occur during the second half of the pregnancy or during labour. This bleeding can put both the mother and baby at risk, but deaths from placenta praevia are incredibly rare.

  • Premature birth. Bleeding may be cause to undergo an emergency caesarean section, even before your baby is full term.

How Can I Find Out if I Have Placenta Praevia?

Should you have placenta praevia, it will show up during your usual prenatal check-ups or a second trimester ultrasound. To be certain or to get a more thorough diagnosis, your doctor may also need to do a transvaginal ultrasound, using a wand-like device placed inside the vagina.

Should your doctor suspect or notice any signs of placenta praevia, then they may do additional ultrasounds to determine the precise location of the placenta and assess whether it can resolve itself over the course of your pregnancy.

However, if you experience any heavy bleeding during your pregnancy, see your doctor or go to the hospital immediately.

What Can My Doctor Do About Placenta Praevia?

Placenta praevia is rare, and if you do have it, the severity of the condition also depends on factors such as your and your baby's health; how far along your pregnancy is the position of the placenta; and to what extent it actually covers the cervix. Your doctor will monitor whether the low lying placenta moves up the uterus, and, if it doesn't, he will aim to get you as close to full term as possible.

If you're late into your pregnancy and you still have placenta praevia, a c-section may be required. If your placenta lies in a low position, but doesn't cover the cervix, you may be able to have a vaginal birth, but talk this through with your doctor. You are recommended to remain in or very near the hospital until the birth of the baby if you have total placenta praevia.

In any case, the most important thing you need to do is take care of yourself, rest as much as possible, and avoid any activities that may trigger bleeding, like exercise.

There is no need to worry about placenta praevia. It's a rare condition, and even if your doctor diagnoses you with it or you show placenta praevia signs, there is a good chance it will go away by itself. And if it doesn't resolve itself, your doctors can manage the condition so both you and your baby are safe and healthy.

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