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What Is Placenta Previa?

The placenta is the organ which is attached to the uterus during pregnancy. The organ is attached to the fetus by the umbilical cord, which is how the growing baby gets oxygen and nourishment. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta is blocking the mother’s cervix. The exact cause is unknown. If the condition does not resolve, then a C-section is required.

Placenta previa types

What type of previa a patient has will affect treatment. There are three different types of placenta previa:

  • Marginal previa: when the placenta reaches the edge of the cervix
  • Partial previa: when a section of the cervix is covered by the placenta
  • Complete previa: when the opening to the cervix is completely covered

Symptoms of placenta previa

Placenta previa can cause vaginal bleeding during the second and third trimesters and early contractions. Often, the condition resolves as the uterus grows. If the placenta continues to cover the cervix in the later stages of pregnancy, the condition is less likely to resolve.

Placenta previa risk factors

Placenta previa is more common in women who have a multiple gestation, or are pregnant with twins or triplets. Women who have previously had the condition, are age 35 or older, and women who smoke are at higher risk. Women who use drugs are also more susceptible to this condition.

Treatment for placenta previa

Upon diagnosis, bed rest is often recommended and frequent ultrasound visits to monitor the condition. Physicians may also recommend steroid shots to mature the baby’s lungs more quickly. This will depend on the stage of the pregnancy. If uncontrolled vaginal bleeding occurs, an emergency C-section may be necessary regardless of the length of the pregnancy. In some cases, women with marginal placenta previa may have a vaginal delivery.

Typical recommendations

Most physicians will recommend that women with this condition avoid intercourse, internal examinations, and travel. Placenta previa does not have to be a threat to the health of the mother or child. If diagnosed early, the pregnant mother can be monitored to avoid further complications.

Managing a diagnosis

With all the excitement of pregnancy, a diagnosis of placenta previa can be challenging for some women. Mothers who have been put on bed rest can also feel very frustrated. Women who find themselves in this situation can benefit from support groups for women with placenta previa and mothers on bed rest. Women with placenta previa should talk to a healthcare provider about treatment options to have a healthy pregnancy.