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Placental Abruption

(Premature Separation of Placenta; Ablatio Placentae; Abruptio Placentae)

Definition

The placenta is an organ that nourishes the baby in the womb. Placental abruption is when it parts from the womb before a baby is born.
Placental Abruption
Placental Abruption
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Causes

The exact cause is not always known. Other times it may be due to:
  • Rupture of an artery or vein in the uterus which causes bleeding between the placenta and the uterine wall
  • Problems with how the placenta forms
  • Low oxygen levels in the uterus
  • Injury to the belly from an accident or a fall
  • Sudden decrease in the volume of the uterus, such as from losing amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin

Risk Factors

This health problem is more common in older mothers.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
  • Trauma
  • Prior abruption
  • Multiple prior deliveries
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Substance use disorder, especially cocaine
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Prior cesarean section (C-section)

Symptoms

In the early stages, there may not be symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may have:
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Belly pain
  • Back pain
  • Rapid contractions

Diagnosis

The doctor may ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam will also be done.
You may have:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the how much the placenta has separated and the health of the mother and fetus. Choices are:

Prevention

The risk of this problem can be lowered by avoiding drugs and not smoking during pregnancy.

RESOURCES

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org
American Pregnancy Association
http://www.americanpregnancy.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
http://sogc.org
Women's Health Matters
https://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References

Placental abruption. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/placental-abruption. Accessed October 19, 2020.
Placental abruption. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/placental-abruption. Accessed October 19, 2020.
Placenta previa. Stanford Children's Health website. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=bleeding-in-pregnancyplacenta-previaplacental-abruption-90-P02437. Accessed October 19, 2020.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Antepartum hemorrhage. RCOG 2011 May.

Revision Information