Placenta is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake. Low-lying placenta, or placenta praevia, is a complication of pregnancy where the placenta that feeds the growing baby is attached to the lower part of the uterus near to or covering the cervix.
How soon can you know if you have placenta praevia?
If your scan during early pregnancy shows the placenta lying low, chances are that the placenta will move up as the pregnancy advances. However if the placenta is still lying low in your 20th week of pregnancy, it’s called placenta praevia. Don’t lose heart, there is still a chance that it might move up towards the end of pregnancy.
What does having placenta praevia mean?
If the placenta is covering your cervix, it means that it is blocking your baby’s exit route. So your baby will need to be born by caesarean delivery. Placenta praevia is of two types:
- Partial Placenta Praevia: When the placenta covers just the part of cervix.
- Major Placenta Praevia: When the placenta completely covers the cervix.
What causes Placenta Praevia?
The cause of low lying placenta is unknown. Although it is seen more commonly among women who are above 35 yrs old, smoke, had a caesarean delivery before or have scars inside their uterus.
Complications that can happen with Placenta Praevia:
- Bleeding: While light spotting is common, there is risk of sudden vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. You may be at risk of going into premature labour.
- Placenta Accreta: This rare complication happens when the placenta embeds itself too deep into the uterus. Removing your uterus after delivery may be the only option here.
- Vasa Praevia: This is an even rarer complication. It happens when the blood vessels from the umbilical cord run through the membranes covering the cervix. Because these membranes aren’t protected by the umbilical cord, they can easily tear and cause bleeding.
How is Placenta Praevia treated/managed?
Since 90% of placenta praevia corrects itself, early treatment is often not necessary. Placenta Praevia is managed with following all instructions given by the doctor, which could be:
- Abstain from having sex.
- If you are having spotting or light bleeding then complete bed rest at home is advised. You will have to take bed rest in the hospital in case of heavy bleeding.
- Repeated ultrasounds to monitor the position of placenta.
- If you remain free of complications, you may have a planned caesarean after 38 weeks.
Waiting to see if the placenta will move up can be an anxious time for expectant mothers. Try to rest, eat nutritious iron rich food and drink lots of water. The key point is to follow your doctor’s advice.