Placental Abruption – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

A placental abruption will occur in about 1 in 150 pregnancies, commonly in the third trimester before it is time to give birth. It’s a serious condition where the placenta is separated partially or completely from the uterus. You can read on below to know more as this article will highlight the symptoms, causes, prevention, treatment, and more.


Some of the common symptoms and signs of placental abruption include back and abdominal pain that comes on suddenly, vaginal bleeding, rapid uterine contractions, and uterine tenderness.

The level of vaginal bleeding varies greatly, and won’t necessarily match how much placenta is separated from the uterus. Aside from that, it’s possible to have no visible bleeding after a severe placental abruption if the blood is trapped within the uterus.

Placental abruption occurs slowly in some cases. In this case, you might experience light and intermittent bleeding. Your baby may not develop as fast as you expect and you could have complications such as low amniotic fluid.

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In most instances, the specific cause is not known. However, some of the possible causes include injury or trauma to the abdomen, maybe from a fall or motor vehicle accident, or quick loss amniotic fluid that is cushioning and surrounding the baby inside the uterus.

There are many factors that could increase your risk of having a placental abruption during pregnancy. This includes:

High blood pressure: This condition can increase your chances, whether it develops from pregnancy or is chronic.

Prior placental abruption: You will definitely be at a higher risk if you have experienced it before.

Abdominal trauma: This can come from a fall or some other form of blow.

Premature membranes rupture: The amniotic sac or fluid filled membrane cushions and surrounds the baby during pregnancy. Your risk will increase if it breaks or leaks before the onset of labor.

Substance abuse: Women who use cocaine and smoke during their pregnancy are more likely to have placental abruption.

Blood clot disorders: The risk will increase by any condition that prevents the blood from clotting.

Maternal age: It is more common for older women to experience placental abruption.

Multiple pregnancies: Placental abruption can be triggered after the first baby is delivered.


It is not possible to prevent placental abruption directly, but there are certain things that you could do to reduce the risk factors. For instance, you could quit smoking or using illegal drugs. Another prevention measure to take would be to follow your healthcare provider’s suggestion to keep certain medical condition, like high blood pressure, under control.
You should also get immediate medical care if you have had any form of abdominal trauma to lower your risk of having placental abruption and any other complication.


Your doctor cannot reconnect a placenta after it’s separated from the uterus wall. The treatment for placental abruption will depend on certain circumstances, such as if the baby is not near to full term. You may be hospitalized to get close monitoring if the abruption appears to be mild, the baby has a normal heart rate and it is too soon to deliver the baby; this is usually before thirty-four weeks of pregnancy.

Your doctor might tell you to rest at home if the condition of your baby is stable and the bleeding stops. There are some cases when medication can be given to help mature the baby’s lungs if early delivery is necessary.

Another circumstance is if the baby is near to full term. It might be possible for you to delivery your baby vaginally under closely monitored conditions if the placental abruption is minimal and your baby is nearly full term. You will require immediate delivery, generally by C-section, if the abruption is progressing or is jeopardizing the health of both you and your baby. You might require a blood transfusion if you are experiencing severe bleeding.

Possible Complications

A placental abruption can result in life-threatening problems for you and your baby. In the case of your baby, there could be problems such as stillbirth, premature birth or deprivation of nutrients and oxygen. As for you the mother, the abruption can result in the need for blood transfusion, blood clotting problems; shock from blood loss, and failure of your kidneys or some other organ.

Testing and Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination to check for uterine rigidity or tenderness if placental abruption is suspected. You might have to do an ultrasound or blood tests for the doctor to identify the possible causes of vaginal bleeding.

You should seek emergency help if you are experiencing any of the classic symptoms or signs. This is usually a medical emergency that leaves no time for preparation, but it’s possible for your health care provider to see signs of an imminent abruption before it turns into an emergency situation. It depends on the severity of the suspected placental abruption, but you could be admitted to hospital for monitoring or for emergency surgery in order to deliver your baby.

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