Placental abruption is the separation of the placenta from the uterine lining. This condition
usually occurs in the third trimester but can occur any time after the 20th week of pregnancy. Only about 1% of all
pregnant women will experience placental abruption, and most can be successfully treated depending on what type of
What are the signs & symptoms of placental
The signs and symptoms of placental abruption include one or more of the following:
Any vaginal bleeding in the third trimester should be reported to your health care provider
immediately. Other causes for vaginal bleeding could be placenta previa. Your health care provider will know the
What actually happens in placental abruption?
The placenta is part of your baby's life support system. It transfers oxygen and nutrients to
your baby. When the placenta separates from your uterine lining before labor it can interrupt the transportation of
oxygen and nutrients to your baby.
Placental abruption can only truly be diagnosed after birth, when the placenta can be examined.
There are a few methods that are used to try to make this diagnosis during pregnancy so that proper treatment can
be applied. These include:
What is the treatment for placental abruption?
Treatment depends on the severity of the separation, location
of the separation and the age of the pregnancy. There can be a partial separation
or a complete (also called a total) separation that occurs. There can also be different degrees
of each of these which will impact the type of treatment recommended.
In the case of a partial separation, bed rest and close monitoring may
be prescribed if the pregnancy has not reached maturity. In some cases, transfusions and other emergency treatment
may be needed as well.
In a case with a total or complete separation, delivery is
often the safest course of action. If the fetus is stable, vaginal delivery may be an option. If the fetus is in
distress or the mom is experiencing severe bleeding, then a cesarean delivery would be necessary.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can stop the placenta from detaching and there is no
way to reattach it.
Any type of placental abruption can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. In cases
where severe placental abruption occurs, approximately 15% will end in fetal death.
What causes placental abruption?
The causes of placental abruption are not completely known. However, women are more at risk for
this condition if they:
Use cocaine during pregnancy
Are over the age of 35
Have preeclampsia or hypertension
Are pregnant with twins or triplets
Have had a previous placental abruption
Experience trauma to the abdomen
Have abnormalities in the uterus
When should I call my health care provider?
You should call your health care provider immediately if you experience bleeding in your third
trimester. Only your health care provider can make a proper diagnosis for the cause of late term bleeding. The
outcome of a placental abruption diagnosis is improved with fast and accurate treatment.