Placenta praevia is a condition of pregnancy where the placenta attaches to the uterus at the bottom, either partially or fully closing the cervix. It is a serious condition and needs to be monitored carefully during pregnancy.
The most common sign of placenta praevia is bleeding around the 20 week mark. If you have any blood loss during pregnancy you should have it checked out as it can be a symptom of a range of pregnancy complications, not only placenta praevia. In placenta pravia this bleeding occurs because the cervix is beginning to dilate and thin in preparation for childbirth. If the placenta is covering the cervix this causes it to tear and bleed.
Bleeding may be from a number of causes so further tests need to be done before diagnosing placenta praevia. Your obstetrician may palpate your uterus to see which position your baby is in because one third of babies whose mothers have placenta praevia are either sideways or bottoms first. In most cases an ultrasound is the first test used as this can provide an accurate view of where the placenta is attached.
If placenta praevia is diagnosed there are a number of precautions that will be suggested to you to prolong pregnancy as this will give your baby the best chance to avoid the complications of premature birth. Some of these include bed rest, hospitalisation, careful monitoring of you and your baby and blood transfusions for you if you have lost a lot of blood.
Once your baby is at least 36 weeks, or if prolonging the pregnancy any further would risk your life, your baby will be delivered by caesarean section. A vaginal birth is too risky, even if the cervix is only partially covered.
Although placenta praevia carries risks, if diagnosed early, they can be monitored and managed so that both you and your baby can navigate pregnancy and birth safely.