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Health & Pregnancy

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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.
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