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Understanding Placenta Previa -- Diagnosis & Treatment

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How Do I Know If I Have Placenta Previa?

If you have vaginal bleeding, your health care provider will do an ultrasound to look for problems with the placenta, including placenta previa. Most women with placenta previa have no bleeding and are usually diagnosed by a routine ultrasound exam early in pregnancy. If you start bleeding, your health care provider will probably not perform a cervical exam if placenta previa is suspected.

What Are the Treatments for Placenta Previa?

Because 90% of placenta previas early in pregnancy resolve on their own, early treatment is often not necessary unless there are other complications. You may be advised to abstain from intercourse. Your health care provider will usually repeat ultrasounds later in pregnancy to verify the position of the placenta. Women with placenta previa as their due date approaches nearly always give birth by cesarean delivery. If bleeding is severe, an emergency cesarean birth may be performed. Life threatening bleeding that continues after the baby is born may require a cesarean hysterectomy.

If bleeding is not extensive, your health care provider will prescribe close monitoring, either in the hospital or at home. In the hospital, the staff will be able to monitor the baby's heart rate and make sure that your blood loss is not affecting you or the fetus. If you are close to your due date, your health care provider may choose to do an amniocentesis to see if the baby is mature enough for delivery. Women with placenta previa usually have a cesarean delivery early, before their due date.

How Can I Prevent Placenta Previa?

Smokers are at increased risk of placenta previa, so it is advisable to reduce the danger by stopping smoking.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on April 04, 2014

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