Each OB appointment during pregnancy is a mixture of excitement and anticipation. The majority of the time, women return home with good news and sometimes a little sonogram photo. But for 1 in every 200 pregnancies, a diagnosis of Placenta Previa can turn what was supposed to be a routine appointment into an anxiety-ridden nightmare. This week we’re talking about what exactly Placenta Previa is, and ways to cope after a diagnosis.
What Is Placenta Previa?
We all know the placenta is the structure inside your uterus that provides oxygen, nutrition, and waste removal for your baby. The baby is connected through the umbilical cord, and in most pregnancies, the placenta is attached to the top or side of the uterus. Placenta Previa is diagnosed when the placenta partially or totally covers the cervix.
There are four grades of Placenta Previa:
- Grade 1: Minor. The placenta is mainly in the upper part of the uterus, but some may extend to the lower part.
- Grade 2: Marginal. The placenta reaches the cervix, but does not cover it.
- Grade 3: Major. The placenta partially covers the cervix.
- Grade 4: Major. The placenta completely covers the cervix, and is the most serious type of Placenta Previa.
PP causes severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. Some Placenta Previa will resolve themselves, but if not, you will need to deliver your baby via cesarean section.
What Are The Symptoms and Who Is At Risk?
Bleeding occurs in 70-80% of women with Placenta Previa, and is the primary symptom. Most bleeding begins after the 20th week of gestation. The bleeding can range from light to severe, and is usually painless, though it can be associated with uterine contractions and abdominal pain.
The general risk factors include:
- Already having had a baby
- Scars on the uterus from a previous surgery including cesarean deliveries, uterine fibroid removal, and dilation and curettage.
- Having Placenta Previa previously
- Pregnancy with more than one fetus
- You are a smoker, or a user of cocaine
- Are 35 years old or older
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Sadly, there are no full treatment options for Placenta Previa, only management options. Your management options depend on varying factors that include the wellbeing of the mother and fetus, the amount of blood loss, the degree of placenta previa, and the gestational age. The goal of every provider to delay delivery as long as possible without increasing risk to the fetus. During this time, your medical provider may ask you to do some of the following:
- For Little Or No Bleeding: Avoid activities that can trigger bleeding like sex, and excessive exercise. And get PLENTY of rest. Chances of being able to deliver vaginally are higher, but you should discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
- For Heavy Bleeding: Heavy bleeding requires immediate medical attention. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required. Your healthcare provider will likely plan a c-section as close to 36 weeks as possible, however you may need to deliver earlier if heavy bleeding continues.
- Bleeding That Does Not Stop: If you can no longer control your bleeding, you will likely need an emergency c-section, even if the baby is premature.
What To Do After A Diagnosis?
If you are diagnosed with Placenta Previa, it’s okay to feel worried, scared, or confused. But, there are strategies to help cope with a diagnosis.
- Learn all about Placenta Previa. Talk to you health care provider, and do additional research on the condition. Also, reach out to other women who’ve had the condition and find support groups online, or in person.
- Prepare for a cesarean. Though you may not have the birth you always envisioned, keep in mind that your health and the health of your baby are the most important thing.
- R&R is your friend. Even if you’re not on strict bedrest, remember to take it easy. Read about newborn care, plan for the arrival of the baby, and use the time for other non-taxing tasks you can knock out before the birth.
- Self-care is important. Allow yourself to indulge in things that make you feel good. A warm bath, your favorite movie — anything that lowers your stress level and makes you feel more comfortable.
The medical professionals at Miami Center of Excellence are here to answer any questions or concerns you may have about Placenta Previa, or any other pregnancy concern. Contact us by phone or online.