Placenta Previa and Pregnancy

Placenta previa


May 2017

Placenta Previa and Pregnancy

Placenta previa is in the list of pregnancy complications. Future parents need to take into consideration that in case of noticing the symptoms, they should visit their healthcare provider immediately. In case of a surrogate pregnancy, intended parents and agencies should ensure that the surrogate attends prenatal checkups regularly and has the possibility/information to contact the clinic whenever she needs to.


About Placenta Previa

Placenta previa is the condition when placenta (organ connecting developing baby to the uterine wall) is lying in the lower part of the uterus, where it partially or completely covers the opening in cervix. In simple words, cervix is the passage located in the lower end of the uterus and connects it to the top of the vagina.

Normally, in most pregnancies, placenta attaches itself to the top of the uterus. During placenta previa, the reverse scenario occurs and placenta attaches to the lower part of the uterus.

According to the “portion” of covered cervix, it is possible to differentiate types of placenta previa :


  • Complete/total previa – placenta covers the cervical opening completely
  • Partial previa – placenta covers the portion of the cervical opening
  • Marginal previa – placenta covers just the border of the cervix


Symptoms include the following :


  • Bleeding without pain

Bleeding can range from light to heavy and can stop and return periodically. This is the main sign of placenta previa.

  • Baby’s transverse position
  • Contractions before time


The cause of placenta previa is not yet fully understood. However, the process could be explained as following : placenta, the organ that has to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the baby, will grow wherever the embryo attaches/implants itself in the uterus. If the location of the embryo is in the lower part, the placenta then may have to grow over the cervix- this is one possible explanation of why placenta previa occurs.

Additionally, there are some known risk factors that increase the chance of placenta previa, including :


  • Multiple pregnancies when the placenta needs to be large
  • Previous surgeries of the uterus
  • Pregnancy not being the first one
  • Age – when mother is older than 35
  • Having experienced placenta previa during previous pregnancy(ies)
  • Having cesarean sections (c-sections) before

Cesarean section stands for the delivery of a baby through a surgical procedure. It includes making an incision in mother’s abdomen and uterus and is used when a vaginal delivery puts mother and baby at risk.

  • Leading unhealthy lifestyle (smoking and use of certain drugs, like cocaine)


The location of placenta is usually checked in the middle of gestation. It can be diagnosed with the ultrasound after a regular prenatal visit to a doctor. It is crucial to control the course of pregnancy frequently.

When the partial or marginal placenta previa is diagnosed early in the pregnancy, there is a small likelihood that the condition will still be present before the time of delivery. If placenta previa is diagnosed in the mid pregnancy there is no need to worry  either because placenta is likely to change it’s place, as the uterus grows bigger before the delivery.

When mother is close to due date, the c-section will be performed immediately. If baby is still premature and the symptoms are not severe, it may be possible to wait and schedule the c-section delivery around 37th week of gestation. Because a placenta previa (especially total) blocks the baby’s way during the delivery, cesarian section is the most safe option to choose. Otherwise, blood vessels in the area can be seriously damaged.

Placenta previa requires bed rest. Physical activities and exercises may need to be limited for a certain period of time. However, in some cases, mother need to be hospitalized under the control of doctors in case heavy bleeding starts before the scheduled delivery date.

There exist possible complications to the condition that may include severe bleeding during or after labour. This kind of heavy bleeding may be life-threatening for the mother. If heavy vaginal bleeding cannot be controlled pregnant female should immediately seek for appointment in  hospital or contact the emergency. The doctor might have to do the caesarian section independant from the stage of pregnancy. In this case, the baby will be born prematurely and need a special further treatment.

Parents should never forget that pregnancy is a very sensitive period and requires a lot of attention and care. A lot of threats are avoided and eliminated when found out on time.


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