Placenta Previa

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are possible complications of placenta previa?

Placenta previa can be associated with other abnormalities of the placenta or of the umbilical cord. Some studies have shown a reduction in fetal growth associated with placenta previa, and the presence of the placenta in the lower part of the uterus makes breech or abnormal presentation of the fetus more likely.

The bleeding of placenta previa can increase the risk for preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), leading to premature labor.

Placenta accreta is a serious complication that occurs in 5% to 10% of women with placenta previa. Placenta accreta results when the placental tissue grows too deeply into the womb, attaching to the muscle layer, resulting in difficulty separating the placenta from the wall of the uterus at delivery. This complication can cause life-threatening bleeding and commonly requires hysterectomy at the time of Cesarean delivery.

Lastly, as with other complications of pregnancy, placenta previa can have a significant emotional impact on the pregnant woman.

Can placenta previa be prevented?

Placenta previa cannot typically be prevented. In some cases, risk factors for the development of placenta previa can be eliminated (such as smoking cessation).

What is the prognosis (outlook) for placenta previa?

The majority of women with placenta previa in developed countries will deliver healthy babies, and the maternal mortality (death) rate is less than 1%. In developing countries where medical resources may be lacking, the risks for mother and fetus may be higher.

Medically reviewed by Steven Nelson, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology

REFERENCE: eMedicine.com; "Placenta Previa."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2015

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