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Placenta Previa

The placenta normally connects to the uterine wall during pregnancy, providing developing babies nutrition and oxygen.

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta grows in the lower part of the uterus during the later stages of pregnancy. This can partially or entirely block the cervix (the passage to the birth canal) and lead to bleeding.  

A major risk of placenta previa is uncontrolled bleeding, or hemorrhaging. This can happen if the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall. It can also occur when the placenta doesn’t separate from the uterine wall after the baby is born, preventing the delivery of afterbirth (the remainder of the placenta).

Placenta previa: what you should know

  • Maternal age (40 and older) and high blood pressure are among the factors that can affect placenta health. If you have any of the following, you are at greater risk of placenta previa:
    • An abnormally shaped uterus
    • Many previous pregnancies
    • Multiple births or pregnancies (e.g., twins, triplets)
    • Scarring on the lining of your uterus (which can be caused by previous surgeries, c-sections, abortions and pregnancies)
  • Are you concerned about placenta previa symptoms? Vaginal bleeding is the primary sign of trouble. Severe bleeding is dangerous for both you and your baby. Abdominal pain and severe back pain may also signal a problem with your placenta.
  • By visiting a health care professional regularly during your pregnancy (prenatal care), you can reduce the risks associated with placenta previa. Ultrasounds and physical exams can help diagnose problems, giving your health care provider and you the opportunity to develop a care plan.

How can I get help for placenta previa?

Your OB-GYN may have the expertise to care for you. Or he or she may recommend you see maternal-fetal medicine specialists, such as the ones found at Rush. These doctors specialize in caring for women facing high-risk pregnancies.

Care for placenta previa at Rush

When faced with a complicated pregnancy and delivery, you want to be sure that you and your baby are in capable and caring hands.

At Rush, doctors treat scores of women with placenta previa each year. They deliver babies in the Rush Family Birth Center, which is uniquely staffed and equipped to care for high-risk mothers and their babies. Part of the center, the level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staffs around-the-clock neonatologists to care for premature babies and babies in crisis.

Your exact course of treatment will depend on your unique situation and your doctor. It may include any of the following:

  • Limiting your activities or bed rest
  • No sex or putting anything in your vagina (e.g., tampons, douching)
  • Hospitalization so you can be closely monitored
  • Medicines to prevent early labor or premature birth
  • Medicines to help you continue your pregnancy as long as it is safe and usually past 36 weeks
  • Delivering baby early or having a premature baby

The position of the placenta can cause severe, life-threatening bleeding during a vaginal delivery. That’s why most women with placenta previa will require a c-section.

Why choose Rush for placenta previa care

  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Rush have expertise in caring for women with placenta previa and high-risk pregnancies.
  • As a level III neonatal intensive care unit, the NICU at Rush provides the highest level of care available for premature babies and babies at risk. 
  • Doctors at Rush deliver babies at the new and spacious Rush Family Birth Center. All services are located on one floor, including obstetric operating rooms (where c-sections are performed) and the NICU. So when seconds count most, mothers and babies can get the care they need.
  • At the Rush Family Birth Center, there are patient rooms solely dedicated to caring for expectant mothers facing complex deliveries (antepartum rooms). These rooms offer women space where women can be closely monitored while they await delivery.

Departments and programs that treat this condition