Being told you have placental abruption, or bleeding behind the placenta, is a pretty scary diagnosis when you’re pregnant. A quick response can make things better for you and your baby
What is it?
Placental abruption is when bleeding occurs between the placenta and the wall of your uterus (womb). The amount of bleeding can vary and may be just a small amount.
But, if you have a large amount of bleeding, the placenta may partially or completely separate from the lining of your uterus before your baby is born. This means all that great work your placenta does to provide oxygen and nutrients to your baby is disrupted, putting your baby at risk.
‘Placental abruption is more likely if you’ve experienced trauma to your tummy, you’re suffering with pre-eclampsia or have had abruptions in previous pregnancies,’ says Shreelata Datta, an obstetrician at St Helier Hospital in Surrey.
‘Smoking during pregnancy can also increase the chances of placenta abruption and is another reason why it’s best to quit.’
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of placenta abruption is vaginal bleeding.
Some women may only experience a light bleed, where as others could experience a gush of blood.
In some cases the blood will stay trapped behind the placenta and you’ll feel a bruise-like pain in your back of stomach can be a sign of placenta abruption.
‘You may experience bleeding or severe constant tummy pains, which won’t go away if you are suffering with placenta abruption,’ says Shreelata.
What can you do?
Attending all your antenatal appointments is the best way for your midwife to keep check of your blood pressure and could alert her if there are signs there’s a problem with the placenta.
It’s also advised to always protect your bump when driving by wearing a seat belt. For comfort, you can try a pregnancy seat-belt adapter, which securely keeps the belt away from the centre of your bump.
If you are diagnosed with a placental abruption you’ll be admitted to hospital for observation. Depending on how the condition progresses you may be induced or admitted for a c-section.
See your GP if…
You experience any vaginal bleeding or pain.
‘Make sure you contact your midwife or hospital if the pains you are experiencing stop you from doing your routine activities, or if you start bleeding,’ advises Shreelata. ‘Also be aware of any drops in your baby's movements if possible.’