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Placental Abruption: Everything You Need To Know

placenta abruption symptoms causes treatment

Pregnancy is a very delicate phase of womanhood. It requires a lot of support and care not only from people around you but from you as well. As you progress in pregnancy and enter one trimester to other, you witness many changes. Some changes are very normal while others may require attention and intervention.

Placenta previa, preeclampsia and placental abruption (abruptio placentae) are some of those changes rather complications that require medical intervention. Do not panic if you suspect yourself to be undergoing any of these complications. Seek medical help because most of the pregnancy complications can be treated successfully.

In the present article, we would focus on one such pregnancy complications called placental abruption or abruptio placentae. Though an uncommon pregnancy complication; if left untreated can prove to be serious. So, let us explore in detail Placental Abruption; its symptoms, causes and treatments.

Table Of Contents

What is Placenta And What Is Placental Abruption?

Placental Abruption Symptoms

Causes Of Placental Abruption (abruptio placentae)

Risk Factors

Diagnosis Of Placental Separation


Placental Abruption Treatment


What is Placenta And What Is Placental Abruption?

what is placenta abruption

A placenta is an organ that develops during your pregnancy. It is attached to the lining of your womb. It is responsible for delivering oxygen and other vital nutrients to the growing baby. Placenta develops its connection to the baby through the umbilical cord. Normally; the placenta detaches from the uterine wall after you deliver the baby.

When placenta detaches too early from the uterine wall it is called a placental abruption or abruptio placentae. The placenta can separate partially or completely during abruptio placentae. It can cause severe bleeding in you. Also, it can lead to serious complications since the growing baby is not receiving the required oxygen and nutrients.

Placental Abruption Symptoms

Symptoms and signs of placental abruption can actually mimic some other complications that happen during pregnancy. It may seem to be placenta previa or preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition when your blood pressure goes high and you may also have protein in your urine.

[Read more: Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia]

It is important that you remain watchful once you enter your third trimester. Placental abruption generally happens during the third trimester or a few weeks before delivery. If you witness below-mentioned symptoms than please consult your doctor at the earliest. However, you need not panic, placental abruption can be treated successfully.

Please make a note of below-mentioned symptoms and signs of placental separation:

Vaginal bleeding: it could be a heavy vaginal bleeding to lite spotting. In around 20 per cent of cases, vaginal bleeding does not happen at all. Report it to your doctor if you witness vaginal bleeding during pregnancy especially in the third trimester. Other symptoms include:

‣ Sudden and sharp back pain

‣ Abdominal pain

‣ Discomfort

‣ Uterine contraction

‣ Uterine tenderness

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Causes Of Placental Abruption (abruptio placentae)

placenta abruption causes

In most of the cases, the exact cause of placental abruption is not known. Doctors suspect that an abnormal blood supply to the placenta or uterus can have a role to play in abruptio placentae.

Some of the causes that are known include:

An injury to the pregnant woman's abdomen:

This might lead to detachment of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. The trauma or injury could result from an accident, physical abuse or an accidental fall.

Sudden loss of amniotic fluid:

This can suck placenta from the uterine wall. Rupture of the amniotic membrane when there is too much amniotic fluid can cause this.

[Read: Understanding Placenta Previa]

Risk Factors

You are at risk for abruptio placentae if you are:

‣ Over 35 years of age

‣ Pregnant with multiple babies

‣ Having the previous history of placental abruption

‣ Having high blood pressure history

‣ Consuming alcohol and smoking

‣ Having other pregnancy complications like UTIs (Urinary tract infection), issues with amniotic fluid or umbilical cord.

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Diagnosis Of Placental Separation

placenta abruption diagnosis

You doctor would diagnose placental abruption by conducting a physical exam first. After which he would perform an ultrasound and maybe a blood test and fetal monitoring. A true diagnosis of placental abruption can happen only after delivery. He can only suspect placental separation. The placenta is sent to a laboratory for testing and confirmation. Some of the things that are considered for diagnosis include:

‣ Checking of tenderness and tone of the uterus

‣ Blood test

‣ Monitoring of fetal heartbeat

‣ Vaginal and Cervix internal examination

‣ Ultrasound to check placenta

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Preventing abruptio placentae is beyond your control. However, you can certainly reduce its chances of occurrence by taking care of risk factors. This includes:

‣ Monitor your blood pressure in consultation with your doctor if you have high blood pressure.

‣ Stay away from drugs, alcohol and smoke.

‣ Wear seatbelt while travelling.

‣ In case of any trauma, see your doctor immediately.

‣ Take precautionary steps in consultation with your healthcare provider if you have previous history of placental abruption.

Placental Abruption Treatment

placenta abruption treatment

Irrespective of whether the separation is partial or complete, abruptio placentae needs close monitoring. The monitoring is generally done at the hospital. Your doctor will keep a regular check of all the vital signs of you and your baby. placental abruption treatment plan is actually based on its severity:

Mild Cases Witnessed Earlier During Pregnancy:

If the fetus is not under distress and your vaginal bleeding stops; you may be discharged from the hospital. You may have to visit your doctor regularly till you deliver. This is just to avoid any chances of further complications.

Moderate Cases Earlier In Pregnancy:

You may have to stay in the hospital in this case. The doctor will wait for the baby to grow enough under supervision so that he can induce labour. He may prescribe medicine for fast development of baby's pulmonary system.

Mild To Moderate Cases Experienced Later In Pregnancy:

If this abruption happens around 36 weeks of pregnancy than the doctor may recommend delivery. You may expect a possibility of vaginal birth during this case. However, if the condition deteriorates doctor might switch to c-section delivery.

Severe Cases:

In severe cases, the doctor will immediately prepare you for delivery. If the bleeding is very heavy, blood transfusion or emergency hysterectomy or both may be considered.


Placental Abruption (abruptio placentae) is relatively rare but serious complication of pregnancy says NCBI. It is generally witnessed during the second half or towards the third trimester of pregnancy. It is characterized by heavy vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. In addition, one might experience sharp back and abdominal pain as well. Seek immediate medical help if you experience any such signs and symptoms and some others which are discussed above.

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