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Placenta Previa - Topic Overview

How is placenta previa diagnosed?

Most cases of placenta previa are found during the second trimester when a woman has a routine ultrasound. Or it may be found when a pregnant woman has vaginal bleeding and gets an ultrasound to find out what is causing it. Some women don't find out that they have placenta previa until they have bleeding at the start of labor.

A pelvic exam will not be done unless you need a C-section right away. A pelvic exam could injure the placenta and cause heavier bleeding.

How is it treated?

The kind of treatment you will have depends on:

  • Whether or how much you are bleeding.
  • How the problem is affecting your health and your baby's health.
  • How close you are to your due date.

If your doctor finds out before your 20th week of pregnancy that your placenta is low in your uterus, chances are very good that it will get better on its own. The position of the placenta can change as the uterus grows. So by the end of the pregnancy, the placenta may no longer block the cervix.

If you aren't bleeding, you may not need to be in the hospital. But you will need to be very careful.

  • Avoid all strenuous activity, such as running or lifting.
  • Don't have sex, and don't put anything in your vagina.
  • Call your doctor and go to the emergency room right away if you have any vaginal bleeding.

If you are bleeding, you may have to stay in the hospital. If you are close to your due date, your baby will be delivered. Doctors always do a C-section when there is a placenta previa at the time of delivery. A vaginal delivery could disturb the placenta and cause severe bleeding.

If your bleeding can be slowed or stopped, your doctor may delay delivery and monitor you and your baby closely. The doctor may do:

You may be given:

  • A blood transfusion if you've lost a lot of blood.
  • Steroid medicines if you aren't close to your due date. These medicines help get your baby ready for birth by speeding up lung development.
  • Tocolytic medicine to slow or stop contractions if you are in early labor.

If your newborn is premature, your baby may be treated in a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. Premature babies need to stay in the hospital until they can eat, breathe, and stay warm on their own.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 17, 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.
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