Placenta previa: Symptoms, risk factors, treatment

What is the placenta?

The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy and provides vital support and nutrients to the developing foetus. It forms inside the uterus and attaches to the uterine wall, allowing the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and waste products between the mother and baby.

The placenta also produces hormones that are important for maintaining pregnancy and supporting foetal development.

What is placenta previa?

Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta covers the opening of the cervix. It can cause bleeding during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of placenta previa?

The primary symptom of placenta previa is sudden, painless, bright red vaginal bleeding after the 20th week of pregnancy.

What are the risk factors of placenta previa?

  • Previous placenta previa
  • Previous caesarean birth
  • Multiple gestations
  • Pregnancy with twins or triplets
  • Previous uterine surgical procedure
  • Increasing maternal age
  • Smoking or usage of cocaine by the mother
  • Endometriosis
  • Abortion

How is placenta previa diagnosed?

Any patient over 20 weeks of gestationwho presents with vaginal bleeding should be evaluated for placenta previa.

The standard initial method used to evaluate placenta previa is transabdominal ultrasound. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is most beneficial for diagnosing complicated placenta previa.

What are the complications of placenta previa?

Depending on how much the placenta covers the cervix, placenta previa ranges from mild to severe. In some cases, this condition can lead to some complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Preterm labour and delivery
  • Foetal growth restriction
  • Placenta accreta - the placenta attaches too deeply to the uterine wall. This can lead to difficulties during delivery and potential postpartum complications.

What to do if I have placenta previa?

If you are diagnosed with placenta previa, it is important to take certain steps for your safety and the well-being of your baby.

  1. Follow medical advice: Carefully follow the advice and instructions provided by your doctor. They may recommend modifications to your activity level, restrictions on specific activities, and bed rest if necessary.
  2. Attend regular prenatal check-ups: Regularly attend your prenatal check-ups as scheduled by your doctor. They will monitor the position of the placenta, check for any signs of complications, and assess the growth and well-being of your baby.
  3. Be aware of symptoms: Pay attention to any signs of vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, or contractions. Report any unusual symptoms or concerns to your doctor immediately.

Placenta previa FAQs

  1. How common is placenta previa?
    ng to studies, placenta previa occurs in about 4 to 5 per 1000 births. The incidence is higher at 20 weeks of gestation compared to at birth, as most cases are identified early in pregnancy.
  2. Is it possible to have placenta previa without vaginal bleeding?
    Yes, it is possible to have placenta previa without vaginal bleeding. It is essential to monitor for other symptoms, especially those at a higher risk of developing placenta previa.
  3. Does placenta previa go away on its own?
    In most cases, placenta previa does not resolve on its own. As the pregnancy progresses, the uterus expands, and the placenta's position should ideally move away from the cervix. However, for placenta previa to completely resolve, it is relatively uncommon.
  4. Is placenta previa considered a high-risk pregnancy?
    Yes, placenta previa is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
  5. Can I have a vaginal delivery, or is Caesarean (C-section) delivery needed if I have placenta previa?
    In most cases of placenta previa, a caesarean (C-section) delivery is recommended. Your doctor will closely monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy to determine the best course of action for delivery. There are a few factors to be considered, such as the severity of the placenta previa, the baby’s position, and any associated risks or complications related to the condition.
  6. What activities to avoid if I have placenta previa?
    Avoid activities that put excessive strain on your body, such as heavy lifting, vigorous aerobic exercises, or intense workouts. Avoid activities that may result in abdominal trauma or injury, such as contact sports or activities with a high risk of falls. It is generally advisable to avoid sexual intercourse as it can potentially trigger bleeding in cases of placenta previa.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

If you are pregnant and experiencing vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of gestation, it is important to consider the possibility of placenta previa. Early detection of placenta previa is highly beneficial as it allows for timely intervention and appropriate management.

A dedicated and expert team of obstetricians and gynaecologists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide patients with the best care and assistance. Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have any concerns or questions about placenta previa.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

Thank you for your patience