Placental Abruption - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Placental Abruption

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Pregnancy is a delicate phase, and the weeks leading up to labor can be crucial. There is always a risk of a placental abruption. And, if your doctor has spoken to you about it, or you are looking for some information to prevent placental health complications during pregnancy, you may find that reading this post could be a good idea.

What Is Placental Abruption?

A placental abruption or placenta abruptio, or abruptio placentae, is the partial or complete detachment of the placenta from the uterus wall before the scheduled delivery date. The placenta is an organ that develops during the pregnancy. It helps transfer the nourishment and oxygen from your body to the baby. Although rare, a placental abruption can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby.

There is a greater chance of placental abruption to occur during the third trimester of the pregnancy [1]. After the 20th week of pregnancy, there is always a lingering risk of placental abruption [2].

[ Read: Placenta Previa During Pregnancy ]

Causes Of Placental Abruption:

Placental abruption can occur due to many reasons. It is often difficult to pinpoint the cause of this complication [3]. However, some possible causes of placental abruption typically include:

  • Abdomen trauma (injury, fall or accidents)
  • Rapid or sudden depletion of the amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus inside the uterus).

Placental Abruption Risk Factors:

Your risks or likelihood of placental abruption can increase due to several factors:

  • Hypertension is a long-term condition, which can occur due to your pregnancy. In any case, if your blood pressure is high during your pregnancy, you carry a risk of experiencing placental abruption [4].
  • History of placental abruption in your previous pregnancies
  • Smoking
  • Use of cocaine
  • Thrombophilias or blood clotting disorders
  • Multiple fetuses, which can cause the placenta to break away from the uterus after the first baby is born in case you are pregnant with twins/multiple babies.
  • Pregnant women, above the age of 40, have higher than usual risk of their placenta breaking away before full term [5].

[ Read: Blood Clots In Placenta During Pregnancy ]

Symptoms Of Placental Abruption:

The symptoms of placental abruption can develop gradually, or abruptly. The symptoms usually cause:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Back pain
  • Rapid and intense uterine contractions.
  • Uterine tenderness or hardness [6]


  • If you experience any of the above signs and symptoms of placental abruption during your pregnancy, seek immediate medical attention.
  • You may not feel any pain but experience only moderate vaginal bleeding. However, any failure to act quickly can be dangerous for your baby.
  • In case, placental abruption occurs at a slower pace, you may notice blood from your vagina sporadically.

Complications Of Placental Abruption:

In severe cases, a placental abruption can lead to complications.

  • Due to insufficient oxygen, your baby can have brain damage. He can also suffer from growth problems due to a lack of nourishment. Preterm birth is also a possibility.
  • You can experience shock due to excess blood loss. You can also suffer from organ failure or need a blood transfusion. There can also be a need for a hysterectomy (surgical uterus removal) in the case of you experience uncontrolled bleeding after delivery due to a placental abruption.
  • In extreme cases, placental abruption can be fatal for both the mother and the baby [7].

[ Read: Placental Lake ]

Diagnosing Placental Abruption:

Your doctor may conduct a few tests to confirm the cause of your abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or other symptoms [8].

1. Physical Exam:

The doctor will conduct a physical exam to check the state of your uterus. Any rigidness or tenderness in the uterus indicates a problem that needs medical attention.

2. Abdominal Ultrasound:

It isn’t possible to detect placental abruption with the help of an ultrasound. If yours is a similar case, your doctor will perform further tests to confirm the problem.

3. Blood Tests:

Your doctor may conduct a complete blood count (CBC) to know your platelet count. A low platelet count increases the risk of blood loss. A blood test can also confirm if you have anemia. Anemia can indicate heavy blood loss due to placental abruption.

4. Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring:

It can confirm the state of your baby’s health.

5. Vaginal Ultrasound:

It allows your doctor to examine your reproductive organs.

[ Read: Anterior Placenta ]

Treating Placental Abruption:

The treatment for placental abruption can vary depending on the severity of the condition. It will also depend on your delivery due to date and the fetal health. In any case, it is not possible to reattach the placenta [9].

  • If your placental abruption is not severe, a hospital stay may not be necessary for you. If you experience preterm labor, you may have to take medicines to stop them. The doctor may also prescribe you medicines to help your baby’s lungs grow properly. This is a significant to the treatment plan in case you need to go for an early delivery.
  • If your case is critical, you may need to stay in the hospital. This is necessary if doctors need to check the fetal condition.
  • In severe cases of placental abruption, delivery of the baby often becomes necessary. In most likelihood, you may have to undergo a cesarean delivery (C-section).
  • If your experience mild placental abruption close to your due date, a vaginal delivery may be possible for you.
  • You may need a blood transfusion in case your bleeding is excessive [10].

[ Read: Retained Placenta ]

Preventing Placental Abruption:

There is no surefire way to prevent placental abruption. But you can take some measures to reduce your risk of this complication [11].

  • Keep your blood pressure in check. If you suffer from high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about ways to control it before you plan your pregnancy.
  • Avoid drug and substance abuse during your pregnancy.
  • If you have a history of placental abruption and want to conceive again, talk to your doctor about any health risks [12].

Before you plan your pregnancy take some preventive measures for your health. Go for a complete health checkup so that you know what you need to watch out for during your pregnancy. Learn about the signs so that you can ask for urgent medical care, if needed.

Did you suffer from any placental complications during pregnancy? Tell us about it here.

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