Placental Abruption

1 What is Placental Abruption?

An uncommon but serious complication of pregnancy is called placental abruption or abruption placentae.

The placenta develops in the uterus while in pregnancy to nourish the growing baby and placental abruption occurs when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery, neither partially nor completely. Your baby can be deprived of nutrients and oxygen and heavy bleeding for the mother.

The mother and the baby might be in danger if this is left untreated.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of placental abruption include:

The most common placental abruption occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy.

The vaginal bleeding varies greatly but sometimes there is no bleeding even if there is severe placental abruption because the blood is trapped inside the uterus by the placenta. If you placenta abruption, you may have low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios) or your baby may grow slowly. Consult your doctor if you have severe back pain and abdominal pain, rapid uterine contractions, and vaginal bleeding.

3 Causes

There is no known cause of placental abruption. But possible causes may be related to injury or trauma in the abdomen or rapid loss of fluid that cushions and surrounds the baby in the uterus (amniotic fluid).

4 Making a Diagnosis

A doctor diagnoses placental abruption by conducting a physical exam, and often by performing an ultrasound.

Mostly you will have no time to prepare because placental abruption is usually a medical emergency.

But if your doctor notices symptoms, you will be admitted to the hospital for monitoring or might need an emergency surgery to deliver the baby.

While you are at the hospital:

  • pay attention to your changes and tell your doctor right away;
  • write down all the medications, supplements and vitamins that you are taking;
  • ask a family member or a close friend to accompany you.

Some of the basic questions that you can ask your doctor include:

  • Is my baby in danger?
  • What kind of tests do I need?
  • How do I prepare for these tests?
  • What are the possible treatments?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Will I need blood transfusion?
  • What are the chances that I might need a hysterectomy?

Your doctor will also ask you questions such as:

  • When did you first experience the symptoms?
  • Have you noticed any changes/ how much bleeding do you have?
  • Can you feel the baby moving?
  • Have you noticed any fluid leaking in your vagina?
  • Have you had nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness?
  • Do you have any contractions?

5 Treatment

The treatments of placental abruption depend on:

  • if the baby is not close to full term: You may be admitted to the hospital for monitoring or if the bleeding stops you can rest at home but you will be given medication to help your baby’s lungs mature;
  • the baby is close to full term: This is after 34 weeks of pregnancy, you will be monitored but if the abruption progresses you will need an immediate delivery mostly C-section, and blood transfusion may be possible if there is severe bleeding.

6 Prevention

There is no prevention for placental abruption but there are measures that can decrease the risk factors such as:

  • avoid smoking and use of drugs mostly cocaine,
  • by controlling your high blood pressure,
  • consult your doctor if you had abdominal trauma or injury or if you had placental abruption before and you are planning to have a baby to check for possible ways to reduce the risk of another abruption.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

There are no homeopathic or alternative remedies for placental abruption.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Some of the tips that can help you in coping with placental abruption include:

  • call your doctor right away if you have severe bleeding because it can interfere with the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients,
  • monitor your blood pressure,
  • monitor the baby.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with placental abruption.

The risk factors for placental abruption include:

  • if you had placental abruption before you will be at higher risk of having one again,
  • if you have a high blood pressure,
  • if you had an abdominal trauma or injury,
  • if you are using illegal drugs such as cocaine or is smoking during pregnancy,
  • if you have any blood-clotting disorders,
  • if you are carrying more than one baby because the delivery of the first baby can cause changes in the uterus,
  • if you are older than 40 years old,
  • if there is premature rupture of the membranes or if the sac leaks or breaks before your labor begins.

Some complications of placental abruption for mothers include:

  • shock due to blood loss,
  • you might need blood transfusion,
  • blood clotting problems (disseminated intravascular coagulation),
  • kidney failure or failure of other organs.

Some complications for the baby include:

If the bleeding cannot be controlled after the baby is born, you may have an emergency removal of the uterus or hysterectomy.