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.
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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
This health problem is more common in older mothers.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
- 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:
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound to view the baby
Treatment depends on the how much the placenta has separated and the health of the mother and fetus. Choices are:
- Bed rest and close monitoring that may include treatments such as blood transfusions
- Emergency vaginal or cesarean delivery if the mother and fetus are in danger
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.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG
- Review Date: 09/2020
- Update Date: 04/27/2021