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Placenta Previa

Placenta previa is a condition that happens in pregnant women when the placenta covers the opening of the cervix. Normally, the placenta is not near the cervix. Placenta previa is one of the conditions that can cause severe bleeding from the vagina in pregnancy.

Placenta previa is more likely in women who:

  • Had more than one c-section
  • Had placenta previa in a previous pregnancy

Other things that can make placenta previa more likely are:

  • Smoking
  • Giving birth several times before
  • Being pregnant with more than one baby at a time

What are the symptoms of placenta previa? — Most women leak blood from the vagina. In some women, the uterus starts contractions and the belly can feel hard. A few women do not have any symptoms of placenta previa, but it will be detected on ultrasound either way.

How is placenta previa treated? — Your doctor will tell you not to have sex. Sex can make the placenta previa bleed. Putting anything deep in the vagina can make the placenta previa bleed.

Treatment depends on your symptoms and how far along you are in your pregnancy. If placenta previa does not cause bleeding, you might have an ultrasound every few weeks to check it. The placenta sometimes moves into a normal position as the uterus grows.

If you have a placenta previa that is bleeding, even a little bit, you will probably need treatment in the hospital right away. Your doctor will:

  • Check your heart rate and blood pressure – He or she will also check the baby’s heart rate.
  • Check how much you are bleeding.
  • Give you fluids through an IV

If the bleeding is heavy and does not slow down, your doctor might:

  • Give you a blood transfusion – This is when you get blood that was donated by another person.
  • Deliver the baby with a c-section, even if it means the baby comes early.

Most women who have placenta previa do not need to deliver the baby the first time they have bleeding. Some women might need to stay in the hospital until they give birth, but other women can go home when the bleeding stops. While you are in the hospital, your doctor might give you:

  • Iron pills, if you lost a lot of blood
  • Steroid medicines – These help the baby’s lungs get ready for birth, if it could be born early. You do not need these medicines if you are 34 weeks pregnant or more or do not have symptoms. The steroids are not the same as the ones athletes take to build muscle.
  • A shot of “Rh immune globulin” if you are Rh-negative (which means your blood cells do not have a protein called “Rh factor”)

If the placenta previa does not go away, your doctor will deliver the baby with a c-section about a month before your due date. This is because labour and vaginal delivery with placenta previa will cause severe bleeding. This is dangerous for you and your baby.

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