Your placenta usually implants high on the uterine wall, and it doesn't detach until after you deliver your baby. This allows your baby to continue receiving oxygen from the placenta until she can breathe on her own. If, however, your placenta separates from your uterus before your baby is born, this condition is called placental abruption. It puts you and your baby at risk.
Risk factors. These factors put you at risk for placental abruption, which affects 1 out of every 200 births: cocaine abuse, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, abdominal trauma, and a history of placental abruption during a prior pregnancy.
Symptoms. It's imperative to alert your practitioner to any symptoms such as bleeding from your vagina, severe pain in your abdomen or back, tenderness in your uterus, or strong contractions every minute. In most cases of abruption, a portion of the placenta separates. In rare cases, placental abruption is complete and the baby usually dies. You may suffer from hemorrhaging or organ failure -- or you may die -- if the condition isn't treated.
If you have bleeding after 24 weeks' gestation, you will be evaluated in the hospital to determine if the placenta is separating. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure and pulse and the baby's heart rate, and he will perform an ultrasound and a pelvic exam. How and when you deliver will depend on your health and your baby's health; you may deliver vaginally or by cesarean, and you may deliver immediately, within hours, or even days later.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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