Placenta previa is a condition in pregnancy where the placenta is lying unusually low in the uterus (womb). The placenta is the organ located near the top of the uterus that supplies the baby with nutrients through the umbilical cord.
Placenta previa early in pregnancy is not usually considered a problem. This is because as the pregnancy progresses, the placenta is likely to move farther away from the cervix. Also because the placenta itself grows, it is likely to grow toward the richer blood supply in the upper part of the uterus.
If the placenta however remains close to the cervix as the pregnancy progresses, it can cause bleeding, which can lead to other complications and may necessitate early delivery. Also, a woman who has the condition at the time she’s about to deliver will need to have a caesarean section.
How common is the condition?
Although the condition is common in early pregnancy, only a small percentage of women who have been diagnosed with the condition earlier in their pregnancy still have it when they deliver their babies. Placenta previa is present in up to 1 in 200 deliveries
Are there any problems associated with the condition?
If the placenta still covers or is close to the cervix as the pregnancy progresses, the woman would be asked to refrain from sexual intercourse. She would also be advised to avoid strenuous activities that might trigger vaginal bleeding.
The woman would also need to have a caesarean section because the placenta can bleed profusely as her cervix dilates. The heavy bleeding makes it more likely that she would have a blood transfusion.
Also, women who have the condition are more likely to have placenta accreta, a condition where the placenta is implanted too deeply in the uterus and does not separate easily at delivery. This can cause a lot of bleeding and can be life-threatening
Are there factors that put a woman at risk of placenta previa?
Most women who have the condition do not have any reason to; nevertheless, certain factors may put a woman at a greater risk of the condition. Certain women are more likely to have the condition and they include women who:
- Had placenta previa in a previous pregnancy
- Smoke cigaretteS
- Are carrying more than one baby
- Who have had a caesarean section
- Who have had fibroid removal or D&C