Placental abruption is a serious condition of pregnancy where the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus. It causes bleeding in the mother and can prevent oxygen and nutrients getting to the baby. The severity of the placental abruption depends on whether it is partially or completely detached. The most severe cases can result in the death of both the baby and the mother.
In most cases the cause of placental abruption is unknown but there are a number of factors that may increase your risk. These include abdominal trauma, high blood pressure, substance use, older maternal age, having twins, triplets or other multiple births, amniocentesis, polyhydramnios and blood clotting conditions.
Symptoms of placental abruption include bleeding, abdominal pain, lower back ache, uterine contractions and foetal distress. Since these symptoms are common to many other conditions you need to have them checked out immediately. It can be difficult to diagnose placental abruption so a range of tools may be used such as reviewing your medical history, physical and internal exams, ultrasound, foetal monitoring and blood tests.
If placental abruption is suspected you will be closely monitored and on bed rest, either at home or in hospital, until your baby is is mature enough to be induced safely. If you are at least 36 weeks it is likely you will be induced immediately as the risks of continuing the pregnancy is higher than the risks of inducing labour. Severe cases will require immediate induction or caesarean section as the risk of death to both you and your baby are high if you continue the pregnancy.
The most important thing you can do if you experience any of the symptoms of placental abruption is to seek medical help immediately. The sooner you and your baby are monitored, the more likely you can minimise the risks to you both.