Placental abruption is an uncommon condition of pregnancy that occurs when your placenta partially or completely separates from the inner wall of your uterus before your baby is delivered.
Because your placenta provides nourishment to your baby, placental abruption can deprive your baby of oxygen and other nutrients and increase the risk of stillbirth or preterm delivery. Placental abruption can also cause heavy bleeding, placing you in danger of shock from blood loss.
Although placental abruption can be caused by trauma, such as a fall or sharp blow to the abdomen, the specific causes are often unknown. You may be at higher risk of placental abruption if you have certain conditions, including:
Placental abruption usually happens suddenly and is most likely to occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. The condition requires immediate treatment, so you should visit your nearest hospital emergency department if you experience symptoms such as:
Sometimes placental abruption can develop slowly, causing light vaginal bleeding or vaginal bleeding that stops and starts. Any episodes of vaginal bleeding, no matter how minor they may seem, should be reported to your physician immediately.
If your physician suspects that you have placental abruption, he or she will conduct a thorough physical exam, order blood tests and may order an ultrasound. Your physician will consider a number of factors when determining treatment options, such as your condition, the amount of bleeding, your baby’s heart rate and your baby’s gestational age.
Even though it is not possible to reattach the placenta, your physician may suggest:
In cases of severe, uncontrollable bleeding, your physician may need to remove your uterus after your baby is delivered using a procedure called a hysterectomy.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about pregnancy complications.
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