Medical Emergency Requiring Immediate Attention
||What Is Placental Abruption?
Placental Abruption (image) is the early separation of the placenta from its attachment to the wall of the womb (uterus) before the baby is delivered. The placenta is an organ which connects the developing fetus to the uterus and allows nutrients uptake, waste elimination and gas exchange through the mother's blood supply. If the separation is not severe there is usually little danger to the baby or mother as long as it is treated promptly and precautions are taken. If however the placenta peels away completely the risk to the baby is significantly higher. This is because the baby's life line to food and oxygen is cut off. It is an uncommon complication which occurs most often in the third trimester of pregnancy but it can happen any time after week 20. Statistically 1 in every 100 pregnant women experiences an abruption, although the severe form may only occur in 1 in every 800-1600 deliveries.
It is also known as:
• Bleeding during pregnancy - light or heavy, with or without clots.
Specific causes have not yet been identified. However the risk factors seem to increase with:
Direct Causes Include:
1. Injury or trauma directly to the abdomen, due to a fall, accident or domestic violence.
Any sudden abdominal pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding after week 20 of pregnancy should be reported immediately to your pregnancy healthcare team. As placental abruption is a medical emergency you should make your way to hospital. A diagnosis is usually given after a physical examination of the patient, taking a medical history and observing uterine contractions and the baby's response to them.
What The Doctor Will Ask
• When did the symptoms start?
An ultrasound scan may be carried out but only about 1 in 4 abruptions can actually be seen on an ultrasound. In fact many abruptions are only concretely diagnosed after delivery when the placenta is delivered with a blood clot attached.
If the doctor concludes that only a slight abruption has occurred and that the baby's vital signs are regular, the mother will probably be put to bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She will be kept in hospital for a few days and if the condition stabilizes she can go home. If bleeding persists she may be given fluids through an IV. She may also receive steroids to speed up the baby's growth rate in case an emergency premature labor has to be induced. If bleeding is severe during delivery and childbirth the mother may require a blood transfusion.
Maternal death associated with placental abruption is rare but not unheard of, and is more likely is treatment is not sought soon enough. Excess bleeding can lead to maternal shock and possible death of both mother and child. If bleeding occurs after delivery and cannot be controlled it may lead to the necessity of a hysterectomy being performed.
Other possible complications include:
1. Premature birth and the associated problems to the baby.
As placental abruption is a medical emergency and can develop rapidly, do call your doctor straight away if you have had a car accident, no matter how minor. Also report any bleeding and severe abdominal pain immediately.
Other Pregnancy Complications
|Related Articles on Placental Abruption
For more about safe deliveries, see the following:
Return to Homepage: Womens Health Advice
WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS