Placenta Previa, Its Causes and Management

Although most pregnancies are uneventful, some can be challenging. Complications which may require much more diligent monitoring by your doctor can at any one point, present themselves. One such complication is placenta previa.

What Is Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta attaches itself so low in the uterus that it may obstruct the cervix.

The cause of placenta previa is mostly unknown but doctors presume that it could be caused by scarring in the uterus through an earlier c section.

Factors that May Influence Placenta Previa

Although not common, several factors have been associated with the condition. These factors include:

  • If you have previously had placenta previa 
  • Multiples that are in transverse or breech position
  • If you have had a C- section
  • If you are younger than 20 or older than 35
  • If you are a smoker

There are three types of placenta previa. These include:

  • Complete previa– occurs when the placenta fully covers the cervix
  • Partial previa-Occurs when placenta partially covers the cervix
  • Marginal placenta previa-occurs when the placenta is close to the cervix but does not obstruct it.

How Is Placenta Previa Diagnosed?

The symptoms that would necessitate a doctor’s intervention during pregnancy include:

  • Premature contractions
  • The uterus is larger than it’s supposed to be in comparison to the gestational age.
  • Vaginal bleeding after 20th week of pregnancy
  • Bleeding can be painless or may come with abdominal pain or uterine contractions

In line with these symptoms, your doctor may order an ultrasound to check the position of the placenta. A transvaginal ultrasound is best for measuring the distance between the placenta and the cervix. If the placenta is found to be too close, the ultrasound technician may recommend further ultrasounds during the 3rd trimester.

Risk Factors of Placenta Previa

Pregnancies that have been diagnosed with placenta previa may encounter some complications for the baby. When the placenta is very low it could affect the birth weight of your baby resulting in a small baby.

Other risk factors are:

  • Bleeding may result in preterm labor
  • Breech position may be more likely
  • Placenta accreta– A serious condition characterized by the placenta growing too deeply into the wall of the uterus making it difficult to separate it from the uterus. A hysterectomy is usually done during a C-section to remedy this.

Treatment and Management of Placenta Previa

This diagnosis may be a cause for concern for most mothers. The good thing is, this condition can be properly managed and in some cases may go away on its own.

Placenta previa is usually treated with bed rest. In situations where bleeding is excessive, hospitalization may be required for blood transfusions and to sort out issues like anemia.


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: avawomen, medicinenet

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