Placenta Previa

1 What is Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa occurs when a baby's placenta partially or completely covers the opening in the mother's cervix — the lower end of the uterus that connects to the top of the vagina. Placenta previa can cause severe bleeding before or during delivery.

The placenta attaches to the wall of your uterus. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to your baby and removes waste products from your baby’s blood.

In most cases, the placenta attaches to the side of the uterus. However, in placenta previa, the placenta attaches to the lower area of the uterus. If you have placenta previa, you will probably be restricted from physical exertion and you will likely have to undergo a cesarean section (C – section) to have your baby delivered safely.

2 Symptoms

The most common symptom associated with placenta previa is bright red vaginal bleeding without any pain during the second trimester of your pregnancy. If you should experience any bleeding without pain, it is important to call your doctor right away.

Vaginal bleeding may range from moderate to heavy flow. The bleeding typically stops without treatment, although some women may experience contractions. Make an appointment to see your doctor so that he or she can monitor your condition and confirm that you are not at risk of any other health issues (such as sudden bleeding during the course of your pregnancy).

If you experience severe bleeding during the second or third trimester of your pregnancy, seek help from your doctor right away. Keep in mind that severe bleeding can cause you to become disoriented and dizzy, which can also affect your baby’s health. Even if the bleeding is not heavy and stops after a short while, pay a visit to your doctor just to be on the safe side.

3 Causes

If the embryo implants itself in the lower portion of the uterus, the placenta might grow over the cervix – thus causing placenta previa. In most cases, placenta previa is diagnosed during the second trimester by an ultrasound examination.
Persistent types of placenta previa have been associated with:

  • Being 35 or older during pregnancy. If you fall within this age group, then chances are that you could experience placenta previa. Visit your doctor on a regular basis during the course of your pregnancy. He or she can ensure that you receive treatment for any health issues that might affect your health or prevent a healthy delivery of your baby.
  • Scars in the lining of the uterus. If you have scars in the lining of your uterus, you may develop a case of placenta previa. Make sure that you inform your doctor about your medical history, procedures that you might have had done recently and any medications that you are currently taking. This information is designed to help your doctor monitor your condition more effectively during the course of your pregnancy.
  • Having had babies. If you have previously given birth, then chances are that you may have some scars in the lining of your uterus. As such scars can lead to the formation of placenta previa, it is important that you undergo regular checkups. If your doctor confirms that you have placenta previa, you need to receive immediate treatment.
  • A large placenta due to multiple pregnancies. If you have given birth multiple times, then you are likely to have a large placenta – which can lead to placenta previa. Seek help from your doctor for immediate and effective treatment.

4 Making a diagnosis

Placenta previa is diagnosed by an ultrasound examination. This is typically done either during a routine prenatal appointment or after an episode of vaginal bleeding. If you are 12 weeks pregnant and you are experiencing severe bleeding, seek help from your doctor right away.

Before visiting your doctor, take notice of any restrictions that you may need to follow. Ask a family member or a close friend to accompany you to the hospital. Learning that you have placenta previa when you are pregnant is bound to overwhelm you a little bit. For this reason, it is a good idea to visit your doctor with your husband or loved one sitting right next to you. They can help you to remain calm as your doctor explains your current condition to you both. Moreover, the emotional support that comes with having a loved one sitting right next to you is invaluable.

Some of the questions that you should consider asking your doctor include:

  • Do I have placenta previa?
  • Will placenta previa resolve on its own? If so, when?
  • What tests do I need to have done? How much will they cost?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • What follow-up care do I need?
  • Am I restricted from doing any activities?
  • Will I be able to give birth naturally?
  • If I plan on becoming pregnant again in the future, will I experience any complications?

Your doctor will also ask you questions such as:

  • When had you first noticed the vaginal bleeding?
  • How severe is the vaginal bleeding?
  • Is the vaginal bleeding continuous?
  • Apart from vaginal bleeding, are you experiencing any contractions?
  • Have you ever had a surgical procedure or procedures performed on your uterus?
  • Have you ever experienced a miscarriage?
  • Do you smoke?
  • How far do you live from the hospital?
  • Do you have someone who can look after you if you are ever put on bed rest?

Sometimes your doctor might suggest that you undergo an MRI so that they can locate the exact position of the placenta and monitor your baby’s heartbeat. This is done to avoid undergoing any routine vaginal examinations that may increase the risk of heavy bleeding. In any case, visit your doctor at your earliest convenience and get the necessary treatment you require.

5 Treatment

Treatment for placenta previa depends on various factors such as:

  • Your health. Your doctor will monitor your current condition and confirm if you are experiencing any health-related issues.
  • Whether the bleeding has stopped. It is important that you inform your doctor about the last time you bleed out and how long the bleeding lasted for. This can help him or her diagnose your current condition and provide you with the necessary treatment you require.
  • How far along your pregnancy is. Undergoing treatment generally depends on whether you are in your first, second, or third trimester.
  • The amount of bleeding. This information is quite essential as it can help your doctor monitor your current condition and provide you with the necessary treatment you require.
  • The position of the baby and the placenta. A simple scan can tell your doctor more about your current condition and the position of your baby. He or she may even suggest undergoing a C-section to help you give birth safely.
  • Your baby’s health. It is vital that you check in with your doctor on a regular basis so that he or she can not only monitor your health, but also the health of your baby. They can also recommend different treatment therapies so that you can give birth safely, despite having placenta previa.

Your doctor may recommend bed rest if you are experiencing light bleeding. In cases where you are not experiencing any bleeding and you still need to rest, you will need to avoid sexual intercourse. Exercise is typically off-limits as well. If the placenta hasn’t covered your cervix completely, you may be allowed to give birth naturally. In any case, your doctor will advise you whether natural childbirth is a possibility.

Listen to your doctor at all times and keep him or her informed of any bleeding episodes. Remember that you are already weak and tired from repeated bleeding episodes so it is imperative that you get some down time and avoid stressing out your body.

If you are experiencing severe bleeding, you may need hospital bed rest. Severe bleeding might require blood transfusion and medications in order to prevent premature labor. In such instances, you will likely undergo a C-section after 36 weeks of pregnancy. If you need a C-section before 36 weeks, you may be given corticosteroids so that your baby’s lungs can begin to develop more quickly.

It is vital that you seek help from your doctor and admit yourself to the hospital if the bleeding resumes or cannot be controlled. This way, your doctor and other specialists can monitor your condition around the clock. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, you will need to undergo an emergency C-section – even if your baby is premature.

6 Prevention

There is no way to prevent placenta previa because there is no known cause. If you are at high risk during your pregnancy, contact your doctor right away and seek treatment to avoid any complications that might arise. 

7 Alternative and homeopathic remedies

Some of the homeopathic remedies for placenta previa include:

  • Pulsatilla and Secale Cornutum: These remedies can help limit vaginal bleeding.
  • Belladonna: This particular remedy comes with various medicinal properties and it can be used to help calm you down and even stop severe bleeding.
  • Platinum Metallicum and Sabina: Both remedies (to be consumed separate from one another) are quite effective in preventing vaginal bleeding.

These homeopathic remedies must be prescribed by a healthcare professional before being consumed.

8 Lifestyle and coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with placenta previa. If you are diagnosed with placenta previa, some of these tips may help you to feel more at ease during the difficult times:

  • Learn about placenta previa and gather various information so that you are well-informed. Chances are that you will feel less frightened and connected with other women who are also going through the same situation you are. Just keep reminding yourself that you are not the only one who is suffering from this condition and that there are millions of women all over the world who are experiencing the same condition. Being pregnant and diagnosed with placenta previa, you may feel overwhelmed and frightened by the very thought of an emergency C-section. Have a family member or loved one with you during your consultations with your doctor can help to put you at ease.
  • Prepare your mind and body for a C-section. Keep telling yourself that there is nothing to be scared of and remind yourself that your baby’s health comes first. Read up and review all the information you can on your current condition. Understand the risks involved with various treatment therapies and other options that are open to you.
  • Plan for your baby’s arrival. Learn about how to be a mom by reading up on magazine articles and getting plenty of rest while you are on bed rest. More so, remember to relax and eat healthy foods as you are now eating for two.
  • Take care of your baby by taking care of yourself and surrounding yourself with loved ones. Remember that there is nothing greater than a mother’s love. Listen to your doctor – if he suggests a C-section so that your baby is delivered in a safe manner, consider this option. There is no getting around it since this may be the only way for you to have your baby, given your current condition.

9 Risks and complications

There are several risks and complications associated with placenta previa.

Women who are at higher risk of placenta previa are:

  • Women who have previously undergone surgical procedures such as a C-section, dilation, curettage
  • Women who have previously undergone uterine fibroid surgery
  • Women who are 35 years or older
  • Women who smoke
  • Women who have previously given birth
  • Women who use cocaine
  • Women who are carrying more than one fetus
  • Women who are of another race other than Caucasian
  • Women who have previously been diagnosed with placenta previa

Placenta previa can lead to complications such as:

  • Severe bleeding (or hemorrhaging) that can be fatal and can occur during labor or after delivery
  • Premature birth