Placenta Abruptio - Topic Overview
What is placenta abruptio?
Placenta abruptio is a
problem with the placenta during pregnancy. The
placenta is a round, flat organ that forms during
pregnancy to give the baby food and oxygen from the mother. During a normal
pregnancy, the placenta stays firmly attached to the inside wall of the
uterus until the baby has been born. But with placenta
abruptio, the placenta breaks away, or abrupts, from the wall of the uterus too
early, before the baby is born. This problem can cause:
- Premature birth.
- Low birth
- Major blood loss in the mother.
Placenta abruptio can be very harmful for both the mother
and the baby. In rare cases, it can cause death.
See a picture of
placenta abruptio .
Placenta abruptio is also called abruptio
placenta or placental abruption. It affects about 9 out of 1,000 pregnancies.
It usually occurs in the third
trimester, but it can happen at any time after the
20th week of pregnancy.
What causes placenta abruptio, and how can you lower your risk?
Doctors aren't sure what causes placenta abruptio. But
there are things that raise a woman’s risk for an abruption. These things are
called risk factors. If you avoid them, you can lower your risk.
Common risk factors for placenta abruptio include:
- High blood pressure (140/90 or higher). This is the most common risk factor linked
to placenta abruptio, whether the high blood pressure is chronic (long-term) or
is caused by the pregnancy (preeclampsia).
- Having a
placental abruption in the past.
- Smoking during pregnancy.
Less common risk factors for placenta abruptio 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
happen in a car accident.
- Premature rupture of membranes for 24 hours or more, especially when there is an infection in
What are the common symptoms?
If you have placenta
abruptio, you may notice one or more warning signs. Call your doctor right away
if you are pregnant and have any of these symptoms:
- Light or moderate vaginal bleeding. Bleeding
caused by an abruption depends on where the abruption is and how long it has
taken for the blood to pass.
- A uterus that hurts or is sore. It
might also feel hard or rigid.
- Signs of early labor. These include
regular contractions and aches or pains in your lower back or belly.
Call 911 or
emergency services right away if you have:
- Sudden or severe pain in your
- Severe vaginal bleeding.
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.