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Placental Abruption

by Ann E. Butenas
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Placental abruption, also known as placental separation, is the result of the placenta deteriorating and separating form the uterine wall prematurely. This could cause oxygen nutrient deprivation to the fetus, which could lead to premature labor or even fetal death. This can also put the mother at risk of internal hemorrhaging and bleeding.

According to Dr. Stefan Semchyshyn, symptoms associated with placental abruption are bleeding and abdominal pain, which most likely occur in the middle of the night, while the mother is asleep. This can cause many women to not recognize these early warning signs.

Low blood pressure and other circulatory problems may also cause the weakening of the blood vessels that connect the placenta with the uterus. Blood pressure can be lower during sleep or when resting on the back, so this explains why this condition frequently happens at night.

When the doctor suspects placental abruption, he will probably perform an ultrasound examination to confirm his diagnosis. If the fetal heart rate is strong and the separation of the placenta from the uterus is small, then most likely the doctor will instruct the mother to bed rest and administer certain medication to stop labor contractions. The mother should lie on her left side to improve the flow of nutrients to the baby. Although the mother may switch sides if needed, it is important for the mother to stay off her back, as that will inhibit the flow of blood to the baby.

If the placenta continues to separate, an amniocentesis will most likely be done to determine the maturity of the baby's lungs. If the doctor determines the baby's lungs are strong enough to function outside of the womb, then the baby may be delivered. Sometimes, in an effort to save the mother's or the baby's life, an emergency cesarean may be performed.

Placental abruption can happen to any pregnant woman, but those who smoke during pregnancy or those who have had a previous D and C are at a greater risk for developing this condition.

Some women with this condition may be advised to incorporate folic acid and vitamin B6 into their diet. It is necessary to speak with the doctor before taking these types of supplements and to receive the proper dosage amounts.

All pregnant women should carefully assess their condition and advise their doctor of any unusual or suspicious symptoms. Some pregnancies may require close supervision and management because of the risk of placental abruption.

Aches & Pains of PregnancyWhen Something Goes Wrong


References for this article: Semchyshyn, Stefan, M.D., 1989. How to Prevent Miscarriage and Other Crisises of Pregnancy. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company.


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