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American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists

Placenta Previa

Wondering what to do about placenta previa and how it will affect baby? We've got the answers here.

What is placenta previa?

Placenta previa is when the placenta lies low in the uterus and covers the cervix partially or completely. It’s also often signaled by  vaginal bleeding (though there’s no pain). Commonly, as the pregnancy progresses, the placenta moves toward the top of the uterus.

What are the signs of placenta previa?

If you experience vaginal bleeding near the end of the second trimester to the beginning of the third trimester, you may have placenta previa. The bleeding may stop for a while but return a few days or weeks later. You may also experience some cramping or contractions

Are there any tests for placenta previa?

Your doctor can check for placenta previa during an ultrasound — sometimes it may require an abdominal ultrasound and a transvaginal (internal) ultrasound.

How common is placenta previa?

According to the March of Dimes, placenta previa occurs in about 1 in 200 pregnancies.

How did I get placenta previa?

It’s been associated with scars in the lining of the uterus, a large placenta and an abnormally shaped uterus. Certain factors like cigarette smoking, cocaine use, being over the age of 35, a second or later pregnancy, previous uterine surgery and a  multiples pregnancy can increase your risk.

How will placenta previa affect my baby?

Placenta previa may cause  preterm labor if there’s severe bleeding. You may also need to have a c-section.

What’s the best way to treat placenta previa?

If you’re having just a small amount of bleeding, your doctor may tell you to go on bed rest. If you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, you may have to stay in the hospital on bed rest. Your doctor might plan a c-section when the baby can be safely delivered. If the bleeding is uncontrollable, you may need to have an emergency c-section.

What can I do to prevent placenta previa?

There’s no specific way to prevent placenta previa, but a woman can reduce her risk by avoiding cigarettes and drugs like cocaine. Previous c-sections may increase the risk of placenta previa, so it’s important to avoid an elective c-section.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have placenta previa?

“I started bleeding at 16 weeks and was told I had marginal placenta previa, and they also saw blood clotting behind the placenta. My doctor told me it was a pretty large area and that I should be concerned. Well, everything healed up just fine. I stopped bleeding, and over the next three weeks, my placenta moved up to where it was supposed to be.”

“I had an ultrasound at nine weeks, and they told me I had partial placenta previa, so the placenta was only partially covering the cervix. While it’s something that’s definitely serious, it may not last the whole pregnancy. I’m having another ultrasound at week 13 to check on the condition to see if the placenta has moved off the cervix.”

“I was admitted at 14 weeks; it was discovered that I had a low placenta. After being on bed rest for a week and a half, I went back to work, only to start bleeding again four days later. A sonar was done, and there was bleeding between the uterus and the placenta. I’m back at work again and hoping all goes well.” 

Are there any other resources for placenta previa?

There are numerous support groups for bed rest mothers and also for those with placenta previa — try posting on some community boards like ours. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has information as well.

Plus more from The Bump:

What are placenta conditions? 

What is the best placental positioning?

What does the placenta do?