What to Expect if You’ve Been Diagnosed with Placenta Previa

Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time for expectant parents! A new life, full of dreams and aspiration! But with this excitement can come anxiety about the unknown, even if it’s not your first pregnancy. What’s “normal”, potential complications and the sudden input of everyone around you can get overwhelming… add to that, a diagnosis you don’t know much about and things can get even more confusing!

If you’ve been diagnosed with Placenta Previa you are sure to have many questions about the causes, risks and treatments. Here’s what to expect:

What exactly is the placenta?

The placenta is a nourishing network of blood vessels, implanted in the lining of the uterus when a woman becomes pregnant. The umbilical cord is the channel between the developing fetus and the placenta and through it, an exchange of nutrients takes place across the vessels. A baby’s waste products are also passed across the vessel network so that it can be removed via the mother’s body.

What is Placenta Previa?

While placental displacement is usual to be seen in early ultrasounds, by the third trimester the placenta moves further up the uterine wall, clearing the cervix for delivery. In some cases the placenta remains too low covering the opening of the birth canal and cervix. This condition is called Placenta Previa.

What causes this condition?

Common causes of this condition are smoking, pregnancy at an “older” age and women with previous cases of this condition are at higher risk for developing Placenta Previa. Women who have had previous cesarean sections are also at a higher risk because there is a chance of internal scarring whenever you have surgical intervention. Scarring on the inside of the uterus may explain why the placenta moves lower.

Within this diagnosis, there are three subcategories:

  1. Low-lying: the placenta is very close to the cervix but doesn’t cover it.
  2. Partial: a portion of the cervical opening is covered by the placenta
  3. Complete: the position of the placenta completely covers the cervical opening.

What are the concerns and risks?

This can create concerns that should be addressed with your doctor, including hemorrhaging during or before delivery,  which compromises the health of both the mother and baby. In most cases a cesarean section will be recommended.

Placenta Previa is determined via an ultrasound in the later trimesters of pregnancy, if it does occur your doctor will discuss your birthing options so that you and your baby will have a safe delivery.