What is placenta previa?
When the placenta is attached close to the opening of the uterus (cervix) or covers the cervix, it is called placenta previa. There are 3 types of placenta previa:
- Total placenta previa. The placenta completely covers the cervix.
- Partial placenta previa. The placenta is partly over the cervix.
- Marginal placenta previa. The placenta is near the edge of the cervix.
What causes placenta previa?
Researchers don’t know what causes placenta previa. It is more likely to happen with certain conditions. These include:
What are the symptoms of placenta previa?
The symptoms of placenta previa may look like other health conditions. Make sure to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is placenta previa diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history. He or she will do a physical exam. The provider will also do an ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the organs. It can show where the placenta is and how much is covering the cervix. You may have a transvaginal ultrasound instead.
An ultrasound may show that a placenta is near the cervix in early pregnancy. But, only a few women will develop true placenta previa. It is common for the placenta to move away from the cervix as the uterus grows.
How is placenta previa treated?
There is no treatment to change the position of the placenta. You may need:
What are the complications of placenta previa?
The greatest risk of placenta previa is too much bleeding (hemorrhage). Bleeding often happens as the lower part of the uterus thins during the third trimester of pregnancy. This causes the area of the placenta over the cervix to bleed. The risk of bleeding is higher if a lot of the placenta covers the cervix. Other complications include:
- Placenta doesn’t attach to the uterus as it should
- Slowed growth of your baby in the womb
- Preterm birth. This means before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Birth defects
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your healthcare provider about any bleeding you have while pregnant. Bleeding during pregnancy may not be serious. If the bleeding is moderate to severe, or you have pain, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Key points about placenta previa
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
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