Placenta Displacement - Risk Factors And Complications of Placenta Abruptio At A Glance

Placenta Displacement - Risk Factors And Complications of Placenta Abruptio At A Glance

Pregnancy and complications in many cases go hand in hand. There are certain conditions which even experts sometimes are unable to interpret. One such medical condition or complication occurring during pregnancy is Placenta Abruptio or Placenta displacement.

Placenta Abruptio

Placenta is a round flat organ that develops during the pregnancy passing on nutrition from the mother to the baby. We can say it’s the only temporary organ of the human body. The typical location of placenta is in the upper part of the uterus. It develops during the pregnancy and sheds away on its own after the delivery.

In a normal pregnancy, the placenta attaches firmly to the uterine wall, but in Placenta Abruptio or Abruptio Placentae, the placenta separates prematurely from the uterine wall after the 20th week of pregnancy. This can result in severe complications such as preterm delivery or stillbirth.

Causes and risk factors of placenta abruptio

The experts aren’t sure what exactly causes this condition but physical trauma to the abdomen during pregnancy and uterine infection can result in placental abruption. Most often, placenta abruption occurs suddenly without any warning signs. However, there are some known risk factors that may cause separation of placenta from the wall of the uterus:

How common is placenta abruption during pregnancy?

The condition occurs in 1 percent of total pregnancies and most commonly occurs in the third trimester. Most of the cases can be successfully treated.

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Complications of placenta abruptio

Placental abruption often leads to life-threatening complications for both the mother and the baby.
In mother it can cause:

In babies, it can lead to:

  • Deprivation of oxygen and nutrients
  • Preterm delivery
  • Stillbirth

Symptoms of placenta abruptio

The classic sign of placenta abruption is vaginal bleeding. You need to call the doctor immediately if you see gush of blood or clot coming out of the vagina. Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling lightheadedness or faintness
  • Feeling of restlessness and weakness
  • Having rapid and shallow breathing
  • Painful sore or rigid feeling in uterus
  • Signs of early labor such as regular contractions or lower backache
  • Baby activity less than normal

Diagnosis of placenta abruptio

If the doctor suspects placental abruption, he might initially do a physical examination before performing a number of tests. These include:

Fetal heart monitoring

This test checks the heart condition of the baby as well as contractions of the uterus.


This gives a clearer picture of the abdomen. Ultrasound is able to detect almost half of the placental abruption cases.

Blood testing

Heavy blood loss can result in anemia. You might be ordered blood test as well.

How placenta abruptio is treated?

Doctors may classify abruption as mild, moderate or severe. The treatment will depend on:

  • The severity of abruption
  • How it is affecting the baby
  • How close the delivery date is
  • How much amount of blood has been lost

If you are suffering from mild placenta abruption (24-34 weeks) and your baby is not distressed, you might not need to be hospitalized. You just have to routinely visit the doctor through rest of your pregnancy.

  • If the doctor confirms that you are in preterm labour and far away from the due date, you would be given medicines to stop the labour.
  • You would be given medicines that help your baby’s lung development.

If you are suffering from moderate to severe placenta abruption (34 weeks or more), you would be advised to stay in the hospital for close monitoring of you and your baby’s health.

  • During hospitalization, most babies will need to be delivered quickly via induced labour or C-section.
  • In rare cases where your bleeding doesn’t stop, the doctor would perform hysterectomy in which uterus is removed completely to save your life.

If you give birth to a premature baby, then he or she might be admitted to neonatal intensive care unit for better monitoring. Usually, a baby, when born after 37 weeks of gestation, is less likely to have any health problems.

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Prevention of placenta abruptio

One cannot always prevent placenta abruption from happening, there is no certain way. However, some tips might lower the risk. These are:

  • Strictly follow doctor’s advice on high blood pressure
  • Stay away from smoking during pregnancy
  • If you have had any kind of abdominal trauma or accident, seek medical help immediately
  • Have 0.4 mg to 0.8 mg of folic acid every day
  • Go through regular checkups

If you have had placental abruption earlier, talk to the doctor to see if you can reduce the risk of another abruption in the next pregnancy. It’s very important to seek help as quickly as possible to avoid potential complications. 

According to American Pregnancy Association, about 15 percent cases of severe placental abruption can end up in death of the fetus.