Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Placenta Abruptio - Topic Overview

What is placenta abruptio?

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 camera.gif, 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:

Less common risk factors include:

  • Using cocaine.
  • 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.
  • Premature rupture of membranes for 24 hours or more, especially when there is an infection in the uterus.

What are the symptoms?

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.

Call911 or emergency services right away if you have:

  • Sudden or severe pain in your belly.
  • Severe vaginal bleeding, such as a gush of blood or passing a clot.
  • Any symptoms of shock. These include feeling lightheaded or like you are going faint; feeling confused, restless, or weak; feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting; and having fast, shallow breathing.

In rare cases, symptoms of shock are the only signs of a serious problem.

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
 
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
 
slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 
pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video