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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Placenta Abruptio
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.
Call 911 or 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:
If placenta abruptio is suspected, you'll probably need to be in the hospital until your doctor finds out how severe it is.
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.
Current as of
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical ReviewSarah Marshall MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineRSURemoved
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 Wilkins.
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.
Current as of:
May 29, 2019
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & RSURemoved
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