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Placental Abruption  
Placental Abruption

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Definition  

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before the fetus is delivered. The placenta is the organ that provides nourishment for the fetus while it is still in the uterus. In a healthy pregnancy, the placenta remains attached to the uterine wall until after the fetus is delivered.

Some form of the condition affects about one in every 150 births. In very severe forms, placental abruption can cause death to the fetus. This occurs less commonly. Death of the mother from placental abruption is very rare.

Placental abruption can cause:

  • Premature delivery
  • Fetal anemia
  • Low birth weight
  • Significant blood loss for the mother
  • Fetal death
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Causes  

The direct cause of placental abruption is not clearly understood. It may be a combination of several events. These may include:

  • Impaired formation and structure of the placenta
  • Low oxygen levels inside the uterus
  • Rupture of maternal artery or vein which causes bleeding behind the placental wall
  • Injury to the abdomen from an accident or a fall
  • Sudden decrease in the volume of the uterus, from significant loss of amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin
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Risk Factors  

Factors that may increase your chance of developing placental abruption:

  • Previous placental abruption in a prior pregnancy
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Pregnancy during older age
  • Multiple previous deliveries
  • Excessively distended uterus
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Drug misuse, especially cocaine
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Symptoms  

In the early stages, you may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Rapid contractions
  • Soreness in the uterus
  • Feeling faint
  • Baby moving less
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam will also be done to examine your reproductive organs.

Tests may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood coagulation profile to determine how long it takes for your blood to clot
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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Intravenous Treatments  

Fluids may be given by IV to replace lost fluids. Blood transfusions may also be given to replace lost blood supply