Placental Abruption

What is Placental Abruption?

A Placental Abruption occurs when the placenta, the sac that surrounds a growing fetus during pregnancy, separates from the uterine wall. In a normal, healthy pregnancy, the placenta is attached to the uterine wall, keeping it and the fetus safe and secure in the uterus until it is time for the child to be born. While placental abruption is not common, many women are affected by it.

Placental abruptions occur after the 20th week of pregnancy and vary in severity and type. A partial placental abruption means that a part of the placenta that was attached to the uterine wall peeled away from it. Because the placenta is still partially secured, this type of placental abruption is considered less severe. Full placental abruption can be dangerous to mother and child causing oxygen and nutrient deprivation in the latter and heavy bleeding in the former.

This condition has no specific known causes. However, some women who experience a placental abruption might do so as the result of an accident, fall, injury, or other trauma. Pregnant women over the age of 35 may be more prone to placental abruptions. Smoking and cocaine use could also contribute to the development of the condition. Having a uterine infection, high blood pressure, or being pregnant with multiples can also be potential causes.

What are the Symptoms of Placental Abruption?

When a woman has a placental abruption, she may experience vaginal bleeding. This bleeding can be severe or mild and may not even be present at all. Abdominal pain, cramping, and lower back pain may also occur. The uterus may be tender as well. Contractions can occur as well and these contractions are often rapid, meaning one occurs immediately after the other.

How is Placental Abruption Treated?

Treatment for a placental abruption depends upon the severity of the abruption as well as how far along in the pregnancy the woman is. If the woman is not near the end of her pregnancy, close monitoring and rest are necessary ensure that the baby is safe and continues to develop until it is possible for it to be delivered. This may include rest at home or in the hospital depending on severity. The mother may also be asked to take medications designed to help the baby’s lungs to develop. Severe cases may require early natural or cesarean delivery.

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Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 28, 2017