Placental Abruptions

A placental abruption is a rare complication in pregnancy. The placenta develops in the uterus when a woman is pregnant. This structure provides nourishment to the growing fetus. A placental abruption is when the placenta peels away from the uterus’ inner wall before the delivery of the babe. A placental abruption is dangerous because it deprives the baby from the oxygen and nutrients it needs. A placental abruption can also cause heavy bleeding in the mother.

Usually, a placental abruption occurs suddenly with no warning, and if left untreated, it poses a dangerous threat the mother and baby.

           Placental abruption usually affects women in their final trimester of pregnancy (especially in the final weeks before birth). Some common symptoms of a placental abruption include abdominal pain, back pain, vaginal bleeding, and uterine tenderness. There is no known specific cause for placental abruption. However, there has been a correlation between an injury and trauma of the abdomen to this condition. Examples would include a fall or a car accident- anything that involves the rapid loss of amniotic fluid that surrounds and cushions the baby.

There are some factors that increase one’s risk for a placental abruption. If you have had a placental abruption in the past, you have a high chance of experiencing it again. If you have a high blood pressure, whether it is chronic or pregnancy related, this increases the risk for this condition.

Any abdominal trauma, blood clotting disorders, or substance abuse (particularly smoking or cocaine use) can increase the chances as well. Women that are have had more than one baby, have a premature rupture of the surrounding membranes, or over the age of 40 are more likely to experience a placental abruption.

There are many complications to a placental abruption that are dangerous to both the mother and baby. If a mother experiences this condition she may have blood clotting problems, shock from the massive blood loss, organ failure (particularly the kidneys), and a need for a blood transfusion. For the baby, a placental abruption can cause a still birth, a premature birth, and/or the deprivation of oxygen and other necessary nutrients. After the delivery of the baby, there is a risk for bleeding in the placental attachment. If this bleeding is unable to be controlled, an emergency hysterectomy might be done. A hysterectomy is the complete removal of the uterus. To check for any signs for a possible placental abruption, a physician would conduct blood work and ultrasounds.

When a placenta abruption occurs, it cannot be reattached. So there will only be two treatment options for a placenta abruption. If the baby is not close to full term (before 34 weeks), the mother will have to hospitalized and monitored.

Medication will be given to help the baby continue its development. If the baby is almost at full term (after 34 weeks), a carefully monitored vaginal delivery can be an option if the risks are minimal. However, if the abruption seems dangerous for the health of the mother and child, then an emergency C-section would have to be done. Those with severe bleeding will need blood transfusions. To prevent a placental abruption, there are only a few things you can do. Avoiding illicit drugs and tobacco can vastly decrease the chances for this condition. Furthermore, if you have high blood pressure, you should control it. This can be done by a lifestyle change and taking the required medications. If you have had an abdominal trauma or have had a placental abruption in a previous pregnancy, speak to a doctor immediately.

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