The placenta is the organ that develops during pregnancy that nourishes the baby. The placenta is responsible for getting nutrients and oxygen into your baby’s bloodstream, as well as removing its waste products. The placenta grows inside the uterine wall and connects to the baby through the umbilical cord.
In rare cases, a pregnancy might take on some risks of complication due to abnormalities in the placenta.
The placenta grows from the spot where the fertilized egg implanted in the uterus. Normally, this happens on the side or top of the inside of the uterus. In cases of placenta previa, the placenta grows from the lower side of the uterus. The placenta then covers the cervix, causing problems for delivery.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Often times, Placenta previa is diagnosed after bright red vaginal bleeding occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bleeding can be heavy or light. It typically isn’t accompanied by any pain and usually stops on its own, only to return again within a few days or weeks. Your OB-GYN can diagnose placenta previa with a routine ultrasound during a prenatal appointment.
Placenta Previa Complications
Placenta previa can cause severe, even life-threatening bleeding during labor, vaginal birth, or even immediately after delivery. In some cases, there is an increased risk of preterm birth and/or Cesarean delivery.
Your doctor will evaluate the severity of your condition and make a treatment recommendation based on your individual case. For mild bleeding, your doctor will likely recommend bed rest and to avoid both sex and exercise. For heavier bleeding, you may need to remain on strict bed rest in the hospital.
Normally, the placenta easily detaches from the uterine wall so that it can be expelled after the baby is born. This is what is known as the “afterbirth.” However in rare cases, the placenta remains attached because its blood vessels have grown too deeply into the uterine wall. This condition is known as placenta accreta.
Placenta accreta can worsen if the blood vessels have impacted into the uterine muscles (called placenta increta) or if they have penetrated through the walls of the uterus (placenta percreta).
Often, there are no outward symptoms of placenta previa, accrete, or percreta, and a doctor will catch the condition during a regular ultrasound, MRI, or blood test. In some cases, placenta previa may cause vaginal bleeding, especially in the third trimester. Contact your doctor if you are bleeding in your pregnancy.
Placenta previa and its variants can cause excessive blood loss after childbirth. Your blood may have difficulty clotting normally. This could lead to lung and kidney failure. Placenta previa also increases the risk of preterm labor and premature birth.
Treating severe blood loss due to complications in labor usually involves a blood transfusion. Your doctor may recommend an early delivery, to try to prevent you from going into labor naturally when the outcome is difficult to control.
Vasa previa is a complication in which fetal blood vessels, either in the placenta or in the umbilical cord, are trapped between the baby and the cervix. This can happen in a number of ways. One of the most common is when the placenta develops a minor (succenturiate) lobe joined to the main placental disc only by threads of blood vessels, which cross the cervical opening.
Symptoms and diagnosis
There are usually no symptoms to signal vasa previa, but the condition can be detected with a sonogram and a Doppler ultrasound after the 16th week.
This condition normally does not cause problems for either the mother or baby until the mother’s water breaks. This can tear the blood vessels, resulting in the baby losing a life-threatening amount of blood.
Vesa Previa Management
The most important way to prevent a fatal outcome for the baby is to detect vasa previa before the mother goes into labor. Your OB-GYN will most likely recommend scheduling a Cesarean delivery a few weeks before your due date to avoid the dangers of natural labor.