Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta, the pancake-shaped sac that provides nourishment to the baby, covers the opening of the cervix. Often this complication resolves itself, but in those situations when it does not, it is very dangerous.
Understanding Placenta Previa
Placenta previa is also sometimes called a low-lying placenta. Because the placenta is completely or partially blocking the opening of the cervix, labor will place pressure on the placenta, which can create a dangerous situation for the baby and also result in heavy bleeding.
Risks for Placenta Previa
The risk for placenta previa is about one in 200 (or .5 percent) for younger women. The risk increases with age, with women over 35 having a 1 percent risk. A University of California at Davis study found that women over age 40 had eight times the risk of younger women of developing this condition.
You are at an increased risk if you are carrying multiples, have had previous C-sections, had placenta previa in a previous pregnancy, smoke, or have had uterine surgery.
Treatment for Placenta Previa
If your placenta previa is noticed in an ultrasound in your second trimester, you'll be sent for later ultrasounds to check on the location of the placenta. In 90 percent of cases, it moves up on its own. If it doesn't, you may be put on “pelvic rest,” which means no intercourse or vaginal exams during your pregnancy and can also include an instruction to avoid heavy lifting.
If your placenta previa persists, you will need to have a C-section. If you have ongoing bleeding and you are preterm, your baby may need some corticosteroids to improve his or her lung functioning for delivery prior to the due date.