(Premature Separation of Placenta; Ablatio Placentae; Abruptio Placentae)


The placenta is an organ that nourishes the baby in the womb. Placental abruption is when it parts from the womb before a baby is born.

Placental Abruption
Placental Abruption
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The exact cause is not always known. Other times it may be due to:

  • Rupture of an artery or vein in the uterus which causes bleeding between the placenta and the uterine wall
  • Problems with how the placenta forms
  • Low oxygen levels in the uterus
  • Injury to the belly from an accident or a fall
  • Sudden decrease in the volume of the uterus, such as from losing amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin

Risk Factors

This health problem is more common in older mothers.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Trauma
  • Prior abruption
  • Multiple prior deliveries
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Substance use disorder, especially cocaine
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Prior cesarean section (C-section)


In the early stages, there may not be symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may have:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Belly pain
  • Back pain
  • Rapid contractions


The doctor may ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam will also be done.

You may have:


Treatment depends on the how much the placenta has separated and the health of the mother and fetus. Choices are:


The risk of this problem can be lowered by avoiding drugs and not smoking during pregnancy.


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  http://www.acog.org 

American Pregnancy Association  http://www.americanpregnancy.org 


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)  http://sogc.org 

Women's Health Matters  https://www.womenshealthmatters.ca 


Placental abruption. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/placental-abruption. Accessed October 19, 2020.

Placental abruption. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/placental-abruption. Accessed October 19, 2020.

Placenta previa. Stanford Children's Health website. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=bleeding-in-pregnancyplacenta-previaplacental-abruption-90-P02437. Accessed October 19, 2020.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Antepartum hemorrhage. RCOG 2011 May.

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