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Placental Abruption

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is placental abruption?

Placental abruption is a condition in which all or part of your placenta separates from the wall of your uterus. It usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy. Placental abruption is a serious condition that can become life-threatening to you and your baby.

What causes or increases my risk for placental abruption?

Placental abruption may be caused by an injury to your abdomen. The cause may not be known. Your risk of placental abruption increases as you get older. The following may also increase your risk:

  • Being pregnant more than 3 times
  • Placental abruption in past pregnancies
  • Medical conditions such as uterine fibroids, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or thrombophilia
  • Premature rupture of membranes or abnormal levels of amniotic fluid
  • Smoking or cocaine use

What are the signs and symptoms of placental abruption?

You may not have any signs or symptoms, or you may have any of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Frequent contractions or cramping
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Nausea or vomiting

How is placental abruption diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your uterus and look for signs of bleeding and blood clots. He or she will ask about your symptoms. He or she will also check your baby's heart rate and movement.

  • An ultrasound may be done to look for signs of placental abruption such as blood clots. It may also be used to check the amount of amniotic fluid.
    Pregnancy Ultrasound

How is placental abruption treated?

Treatment depends on how severe the placental abruption is, and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

  • Bed rest may be needed until your baby is ready to be born. You may be able to rest at home. You may need to stay in the hospital if healthcare providers need to monitor your condition.
  • Medicines may be given to stop contractions if your baby is not ready to be born. Steroids may also be given to help your baby's lungs develop faster if early delivery may happen.
  • Delivery of your baby may be needed if your due date is close or the placental abruption is severe. You may need a C-section if you have heavy bleeding and your or your baby's life is in danger.
  • A blood transfusion may be given if you lose a large amount of blood. Blood is given through an IV.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have contractions.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any vaginal bleeding.
  • You have severe abdominal or back pain.
  • Your baby is moving less than usual, or not at all.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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