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Everything you need to know about life-threatening Placenta Previa

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The complications of placenta previa are potentially harmful. For mothers, excessive bleeding could lead to death, while for babies, premature birth could lead to low birth weight and respiratory issues.

Definition

Placenta previa, also known as low-lying placenta, is a condition in which the placenta lies low in the uterus. This results in a partial or complete block of the cervical opening (the part of the lower uterus that leads to the vagina).

The placenta is the organ that acts as a life support system to the developing fetus by passing oxygen and nutrition from mother to baby. It also eliminates waste from the baby's blood.

The placenta, where the baby's umbilical cord develops from, attaches itself to the uterine wall.

If the placenta is low and blocks the cervical opening at the point of delivery, you would need to deliver via c-section.

There are three types of placenta previa.

  • Complete previa where the cervical opening is completely covered.
  • Partial previa where the placenta covers a portion of the cervix.
  • Marginal previa where the placenta extends to the edge of the cervix.

While a low-lying placenta can be diagnosed as early as 12 weeks into the pregnancy, you really don't have to work yourself up into a frenzy at this point. The condition is usually diagnosed as placenta previa only after 20 weeks.

The good news is that in almost 90% of cases, the placenta moves back up before the baby is due. As the uterus grows and stretches, the placenta moves higher in the uterus and away from the cervix.

In the event that it does not, the potential risk of severe maternal bleeding can occur. In some rare, unfortunate cases, a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) may be required to control the bleeding.

Watch this video for a more visual understanding of placenta previa.

Continue reading to learn about the signs, symptoms, and causes of placenta previa

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