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Placenta Accreta

Contact Maternal Fetal Medicine at UPMC-Magee Women's Hospital

To make an appointment with a maternal fetal medicine expert, call 412-641-6361.

What Is Placenta Accreta?

Placenta accreta is a serious pregnancy condition in which your placenta grows too deeply into the wall of your uterus.

The placenta supplies oxygen and food to your growing baby through the umbilical cord.

During labor, it normally separates from your uterus right after your baby is born. But when the placenta attachment is too deep into the wall of the uterus, it can't easily separate.

The condition increases your risk of dangerous bleeding and other problems during childbirth.

About 1 in every 272 pregnant women have placenta accreta.

If you have placenta accreta, it's vital to work closely with your health care team to have a safe pregnancy and delivery.

Placenta accreta causes

Doctors think a defect in the lining of your uterus causes placenta accreta. It's more likely to happen if you have scarring in your uterus.

Other related placenta conditions include:

  • Placenta increta — the placenta attaches even more deeply into the muscle wall of the uterus.
  • Placenta percreta - the placenta grows through the uterus and possibly into nearby organs like the bladder.

Risk factors and complications of placenta accreta

You might have a higher risk of placenta accreta if you have or have had:

  • One or more past c-sections. The risk increases with each c-section.
  • Fibroid removal or other surgery on your uterus.
  • Asherman's syndrome, a condition that causes scar tissue to form in your uterus.
  • Placenta previa — your placenta sits too low and covers your cervix.
  • Several pregnancies.

Women who are older than 35 also have a higher risk.

Placenta accreta is very dangerous for moms-to-be.

It may cause a life-threatening hemorrhage when you're giving birth to your baby. It might also cause you to go into labor too early.

How to prevent placenta accreta

There isn't a way to prevent it. But you can greatly reduce your risk by only having a c-section if it's medically necessary. That prevents scarring in your uterus.

Make sure you tell your ob-gyn about your surgical history.

If they think you're at risk, they can do an ultrasound early to check your placenta.

Placenta Accreta Symptoms and Diagnosis

Placenta accreta may not cause any symptoms during your pregnancy. But you might have vaginal bleeding in your third trimester.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any bleeding during your pregnancy, and go to the hospital immediately if it's severe.

Diagnosing placenta accreta

If your doctor thinks you're at risk, they can diagnose this condition with an ultrasound. Sometimes they find it during a routine prenatal ultrasound as well.

An ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to create real-time images of your uterus.

To prep for a placenta accreta ultrasound, you'll need to drink lots of water to fill your bladder before the test.

If you have placenta accreta, your doctor will refer you to UPMC's Maternal Fetal Medicine experts. They specialize in this and other placenta conditions.

Their goal is to protect you and your baby during a high-risk pregnancy.

Placenta Accreta Treatment

Your doctors will work with you to make a birth plan that's safe for you and your baby.

They'll review the possible risks of placenta accreta and might suggest:

  • Modified activity if you're having bleeding.
  • Delivering your baby early.
  • Being ready for a blood transfusion, or admission to the ICU, in case you have severe bleeding when you deliver.

C-section delivery and surgery to treat placenta accreta

Treatment often requires a c-section and possibly a hysterectomy to remove your uterus to prevent life-threatening hemorrhages.

If you're planning on getting pregnant again, it's crucial to talk to your doctor early to discuss your options.

During surgery:

  • Your ob-gyn will make an incision into your belly and another one into your uterus to deliver your baby.
  • If needed, a surgeon will remove your uterus with the placenta still attached.

Recovery will take at least six weeks and then you'll be able to return to your normal routine.