Placenta previa (low-lying placenta) refers to a condition where the opening of the cervix is covered by the placenta, partially or totally. It is usually accompanied by painless bleeding which begins in the second half of pregnancy.
The placenta is the most vital organ for the baby's growth since it provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby. It is also responsible for waste removal from the baby's blood. On normal occasions, the placenta attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. The umbilical cord arises from it.
A placenta previa is diagnosed through an ultrasound. It can also be diagnosed through a combination of abdominal ultrasound and trans-vaginal ultrasound, done with a wand-like device placed inside the birth canal. Care is taken when inserting the device, to ensure it doesn't disrupt the placenta and cause bleeding.
Types of placenta previa
a)Partial placenta previa
This happens when the placenta covers the birth canal partially, therefore making vaginal birth possible.
This is where the placenta is positioned at the end of the cervix. Vaginal birth is also possible with this type of placenta previa.
This happens when the placenta grows at the bottom of the uterus. It pushes against the cervix but does not cover it.
d)Complete placenta previa
Occurs when the placenta completely covers the cervical opening making it impossible for vaginal birth. A caesarean section (CS) will have to be carried out and depending on the severity of the condition, the baby may have to be delivered prematurely.
In all placenta previa types, heavy or uncontrollable bleeding occurs and an emergency CS be necessary to save the baby and mother's life as soon as it is deemed fit to deliver which is preferably after 36 weeks. The baby may also be given corticosteroid injections to speed up lung growth.
The exact cause of placenta previa is unknown. However the common risk factors are among women who:
a)Have had previous pregnancies.
b)Have had pre-pregnancies surgeries such as cesarean deliveries, uterine fibroid removal, dilation and curettage.
c) Are carrying more than one child.
d)Who have had a placenta previa before.
e)Are of a maternal age of 35 years and above.
f) Smoke or use cocaine.
The main symptom of a placenta previa is sudden painless vaginal bleeding. It might be after intercourse, during the second half of the pregnancy or bleeding that starts, stops and begins again later on.
Other symptoms include, cramps or sharp abdominal pains.
Treatment of placenta previa depends on:
- The amount of bleeding
This is the main consideration when deciding the mode of treatment. With minimal or no bleeding the doctor will recommend bed rest. This refers to resting in bed and only standing or sitting when necessary. The doctor will also recommend pelvic rest. Whereby one has to avoid sexual activities and vigorous physical exercises.
- The position of the placenta
- The baby and mother's health
- The month of your pregnancy
Dealing with placenta previa can be hard and stressful. Try talking to someone about it most probably other women who have had the same. Educate yourself more about your condition and learn how to prepare yourself well for delivery.
Get prepared for anything depending on the type of placenta previa for example a CS or a pre-term birth. Remember, what matters the most is your health and that of your baby. Finally, enjoy bed and pelvic rest. This will make you feel better and even give a higher chance for the placenta to rise.
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