What Is Placenta Previa?

The Placenta Previa is a pregnancy-related complication, in very simple terms. It is comparatively a rare condition and is generally seen in 4 out of 1000 pregnancy cases. This is most common in pregnancies that have gone well past the 20th week. Superficially, it is difficult to detect this condition. Bleeding after the twentieth week is probably the most definitive signal of this condition.

You can, of course, go for ultrasonography to confirm this too. Though in some rare cases, it does lead to more complications; the good news is most women do deliver healthy babies. Often a little care and caution can go a long way in keeping things under control for most.

Before we proceed any further, it is important to understand what exactly is Placenta Previa?

What Is Placenta Previa Exactly?

What Is Placenta Previa Exactly?

Essentially this is an attachment extending from the placenta that grows on the uterus wall during pregnancy. It is most commonly seen in advanced stages of pregnancy, especially after 20 weeks.

Once this grows, it can either cover the uterine outlet completely or partially. By uterine outlet, I mean the primary opening of the cervix. This is why, a C-section may be necessary to tackle this, for pregnancies that might be in its last lap.

Now we all know that the placenta is that crucial temporary organ, which connects the baby with the mother. It also carries nutrition and the crucial oxygen from mom to the fetus. Normally at the end of a full-term pregnancy, the placenta is about seven inches in its diameter and comes across as a disc-shaped temporary organ. The Placenta Previa is a growth erupting from here but something that gets implanted at the uterus wall.

Now that you know the Placenta’s function, you can understand that it is a blood-rich part, and that is what results in the bleeding. Though primarily painless, the severity of the bleeding due to Placenta Previa differs from person to person. It can range anywhere from light bleeding to a really heavy one. It is broadly dependent on a variety of factors and also an individual’s underlying system.

What Triggers The Placenta Previa?

Once you know what Placenta Previa is, it also becomes important to understand what triggers it. Studies indicate that this could result due to multiple reasons, and in certain cases, lifestyle issues too. There are two basic types of factors responsible for this:

  • Uterine factors: This is caused if the Uterus’ upper lining tissue is scarred due to an injury, operation of cesarean delivery. Even the D&C process for miscarriages could result in it. Any time when the uterine wall has dealt with trauma in the past.
  • Placental factors: In case the placenta’s ability to deliver food and oxygen weakens, it is likely to increase the area to match the efficiency. As a result, the chances of developing Placenta Previa increase. It is essentially targeted to improve the delivery rate of the main placenta. The outgrowth is more a body’s natural way to compensate for impaired functionality.

But this is more of a medical explanation of the causes. How does that translate to our body? More importantly, if you separate the various causes, broadly here is a shortlist of the top triggers:

– History of a past pregnancy:

If you had a miscarriage in the first trimester or terminated the pregnancy before the tenth week, the chances of developing this are higher. Though there are no established trends, the instances of this are way more common.

– Unusual position of the baby:

In case the position of the baby is unusual or different, it is more common to have an instance of Placenta Previa. Almost about 3-4 percent of pregnancies on an average have breech babies. In this case, the buttock is positioned to come first.

– Non-cancerous tumors in the Uterus:

Also referred to as fibroids, these are also seen as one of the key triggers that increase the chances of developing Placenta Previa in the later stages of pregnancy.

– Cesarean deliveries or past surgeries around the uterine wall:

More often than not, when there are fibroids indeed, the need for surgery is also higher. Many times, women also choose C-section surgery. The history of this too increases the risk of developing Placenta Previa in later stages of pregnancy.

– Older women going ahead with pregnancy after 35:

This is another high-risk zone when you are calibrating causes for this condition. Those who choose to be pregnant, especially in the post-35 bracket, need to be careful about this. However, there is no certainty that every pregnancy will trigger this, but the chances are much higher in this case.

– Smoking cigarettes:

This is another high-risk position. Challenging lifestyles and the lack of proper healthy habits can trigger the Placenta Previa. Especially if you are prone to smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol on a regular basis, this could lead to a greater probability of developing this.

So, suffice to say that it is some kind of abnormality or the presence of foreign triggers in the body that can cause it. While the Placenta Previa is not particularly a threatening condition, it is important to be watchful at all stages.

In most normal pregnancies, you will observe that the placenta moving away from the cervical opening as the pregnancy progresses. So the 20th week time period is one of the high-risk times for this to surface. According to expert view and existing studies, a striking 90% of these cases resolve on their own. That said there are about roughly 6-10% of the cases where it can take a severe turn.

The good news is that it can be easily identified during the regular ultrasonography. Most times, your gynecologist will advise you about how to deal with it.

What Are the Key Symptoms?

So the obvious next question would be what the key symptoms of this condition are? While many women may or may not show up the symptoms depending on the individual system, bleeding is common. It is by far the most common symptom seen in 70-80% of women with this condition. Of course, the severity of the bleeding may vary. But if you are past the twentieth week and experience painless bleeding, it is better to get it checked.

In certain rare cases, this bleeding is also associated with pain in the lower abdomen and contractions too. These instances are few and far between. While gauging the symptoms, you must also remember the specific health conditions may also trigger certain symptoms. The interesting thing here is, apart from the ultrasound, there is no specific way of ascertaining the Placenta Previa. So don’t ignore any type of placental pain or contraction in your abdomen. Get tested by a doctor immediately to make sure that both you and the baby are safe.

The Types of Placenta Previa

You can divide Placenta Previa into three main categories. This is primarily based on their size and severity. It is also dependent on the extent of the area it covers around the cervical opening.

– Complete

As the name indicates, this type of Placenta Previa covers the cervical opening completely. It hampers natural delivery and those with it have to go for cesarean delivery to avoid any kind of complication.

– Partial

In this case, the Placenta Previa covers the opening of the cervix to the womb only partially. Normally painless bleeding is one of the only ways to identify this condition.

– Marginal

In this case, though the growth is there, the Placenta Previa does not cover the cervical opening. This does not block the natural progression of the pregnancy and it often gets resolved on its own.

There are times when the doctor may use terms like posterior or anterior Placenta Previa. This is only done to give a more definitive position of the Placenta Previa. Once these come up in the ultrasound, your doctors will be extra careful and may even offer a comprehensive care regime. Often that is the best foot forward. This often results in the growth going away on its own.


In terms of treatment for Placenta Previa, there isn’t much to talk home about. Pregnant women with this condition have to rest and limit the extent of their activity. This is what keeps most complications at bay and can assure relatively healthy babies at the end of the pregnancy term. But in some cases, where it is quite severe, intravenous fluid and Tocolytic medications may be administered.

A blood transfusion may also be required in certain severe cases but for most, it is a painless condition that one has to bear with. So if you are pregnant, it is best not to panic about it. Simply meet your doctor and understand what needs to be done. In many cases, a Cesarean delivery is also needed but most times, the baby is perfectly safe.

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