Placenta abruptio is a
pregnancy problem in which the placenta separates too early from the wall of the uterus. The
placenta is a round, flat organ that forms during
pregnancy. It gives the baby food and oxygen from the mother.
Placenta abruptio can be very harmful. In rare cases, it can be deadly.
Placenta abruptio usually occurs in the third
trimester. But it can happen at any time after the
20th week of pregnancy. It is also called abruptio
placenta or placental abruption.
Doctors aren't sure what causes it, but
some things can raise your risk. These are
called risk factors. Common risk factors for placenta abruptio include:
Less common risk factors include:
If you have placenta
abruptio, you may notice one or more warning signs. Call your doctor right away
if you are pregnant and you:
You can't really tell how serious placenta
abruptio is by the
amount of vaginal bleeding. Sometimes the blood gets trapped between the placenta
and the wall of the uterus. So there might be a serious problem even if there is
only a little bleeding.
emergency services right away if you have:
In rare cases, symptoms of shock are the only
signs of a serious problem.
This problem can be hard to diagnose. Your doctor
will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam.
Tests that may be done include:
abruptio is suspected, you'll probably need to be in the
hospital until your doctor finds out how severe
The kind of treatment you need will depend on:
If you have mild placenta abruptio and your baby is not in distress, you may
not have to stay in the hospital.
If you have moderate to severe placenta abruptio, you will probably have to stay in the hospital so your baby's
health can be watched closely.
If your baby is premature, he or she may be treated in a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. The NICU is geared to the needs of premature or ill newborns.
There is no sure way to prevent placenta abruptio, but you can do things to lower your risk. Your risk is much higher than normal if you have had placenta abruptio before, so these steps are very important.
Learning about placenta abruptio:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for
women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient
education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient
education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive
health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies
by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes
supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies'
lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth
defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
Other Works Consulted
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Placenta abruption section of Obstetrical hemorrhage. In William's Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 757–795. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Greenburg JA, et al. (2011). Folic acid supplementation and
pregnancy: More than just neural
tube defect prevention. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 4(2): 52–59.
Kay HH (2008). Placenta previa and abruption. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 387–399. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and
Miller DA (2010). Placenta previa and abruption placentae. In Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 57–61. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
Scearce J, Uzelac PS (2007). Third-trimester vaginal bleeding. In AH DeCherney et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 328–341. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Williams DE, Pridjian G (2011). Obstetrics. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 359–401. Philadelphia: Saunders.
April 3, 2013
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
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