What is Placental Abruption?

Placental abruption is a condition in which the placenta separates from the lining of the uterus before birth. Placental abruption occurs in around one per cent of pregnancies. Placental abruption can occur at any time after week 20, although it is most common during the final trimester.

Causes of placental abruption

The exact cause of placental abruption has not yet been identified. However, studies have linked placental abruption to the following risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Cocaine use
  • Abdominal injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Bleeding during early pregnancy
  • Advanced maternal age

If you have experience placental abruption during a previous pregnancy, you have an increased risk of developing the condition again.

Placental abruption can be a serious condition for both mother and baby. There is an increased risk of premature birth, stillbirth and death within the first 28 days of life. If undiagnosed, a minor abruption could lead to fetal growth problems as the baby is starved of oxygen and nutrients.

Symptoms of placental abruption

Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Frequent contractions
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Reduced fetal movements

If you are experiencing any of the above, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. You should go straight to hospital if you are losing a lot of blood and feel faint.

Diagnosis of placental abruption

The doctor will examine your abdomen, and monitor any contractions you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing vaginal bleeding, an internal examination will be performed. An ultrasound scan may be carried out to inspect the placenta more closely.

The baby’s heartbeat will be monitored during your hospital stay. It is important for the doctors to know whether the baby is in distress.

If you have lost a lot of blood on your arrival at the hospital, the examinations above will be delayed until your condition is stable. You will be given fluids, oxygen and, if necessary, a blood transfusion.

Treatment of placental abruption

Minor abruptions may require little more than an overnight stay in hospital. Once the doctor is happy that you and the baby are in good health, you will be discharged and told to return if further bleeding occurs.

If greater placental separation has taken place, you may be required to remain in hospital until the birth. Placental abruption can be life threatening for both mother and baby, so your doctor won’t take any chances with this condition. If the doctor considers your baby too young to be born, you will be admitted to hospital long term.

If you are close to your due date, immediate delivery may be the preferred option. This may be done by induction or, if necessary, caesarean section.

Prevention of placental abruption

To reduce the risk of you developing this condition, you should avoid smoking and drugs for the duration of the pregnancy (something you should avoid at all times anyway). You should attend all antenatal appointments to allow continuous monitoring of your blood pressure, and the baby’s gestational growth, as these can be early warning signs of the condition.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.