Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus prior to birth. The placenta, which provides nourishment to the baby in the womb, may separate partially or completely. This is a serious condition that may occur during pregnancy and can pose complications for the unborn baby. Placental abruption may cause bleeding in the mother and deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. Left untreated, placental abruption may be dangerous to both the mother and baby.

Causes of Placental Abruption

The exact cause of placental abruption is not always known. It may be caused by loss of amniotic fluid or from an injury to the abdomen as a result of an accident or fall. There are certain risks however, that may increases the chances of placental abruption occurring. These risks may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Previous placental abruption
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Uterine fibroids

Placental abruption is more common in pregnant women over the age of 40.

Symptoms of Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs more commonly in the last three months of pregnancy. Symptoms of placental abruption may include:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Vaginal Bleeding
  • Back Pain
  • Rapid uterine contractions

Abdominal and back pain often occur suddenly. Vaginal bleeding may vary and sometimes may not occur during a placental abruption because the blood is trapped behind the placenta.

Diagnosis of Placental Abruption

Placental abruption is diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. An ultrasound is performed to determine the source of bleeding and view the abruption. A partial thromboplastin time (PTT) test may also be performed to determine if the mother has bleeding or clotting problems. Fetal monitoring is also used to monitor the health of the baby.

Treatment of Placental Abruption

Treatment of placental abruption varies depending on several factors including the severity of the abruption, the health of the mother and baby and how far along the mother is in her pregnancy. A mild placental abruption may only be monitored by a doctor. An abruption is mild if only a small part of the placenta separates from the uterine wall. Some women may be monitored in a hospital or be put on bed rest at home. An immediate delivery (often by C-section) is often necessary for moderate to severe placental abruptions. If the mother has lost a large amount of blood due to the abruption, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Complications of Placental Abruption

Placental abruption may cause serious complications to the mother and baby. Excessive blood loss can lead to shock and possible death of the mother and baby. It may also lead to kidney and other organ failure in the mother. Placental abruption may also deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients and cause premature birth or death of the fetus.

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