Image of a woman with placenta previa

Placenta Previa: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Placenta Previa is a condition where the placenta lies low in the uterus and partially or completely covers the cervix. The placenta may separate from the uterine wall as the cervix begins to dilate (open) during labor.

How Common Is Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa affects about 1 in 200 pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy.

It is more common in women who have had one or more of the following:

What Are The Different Types?

  • Complete Previa: the cervical opening is completely covered
  • Partial Previa: a portion of the cervix is covered by the placenta
  • Marginal Previa: extends just to the edge of the cervix

What Are The Symptoms?

Signs and symptoms may vary, but the most common symptom is painless bleeding during the third trimester.

Other Signs and Symptoms Include:

  • Premature contractions
  • Baby is breech, or in a transverse position
  • Uterus measures larger than it should according to gestational age

What Is The Treatment?

Once diagnosed, treatment will usually include bed rest for the mother and frequent hospital visits. Depending on the gestational age, steroid shots may be given to help mature the baby’s lungs. If the mother experiences bleeding that cannot be controlled, immediate cesarean delivery is usually done regardless of the length of the pregnancy. Some marginal previas can be delivered vaginally, although complete or partial previas would require a cesarean delivery.

Most physicians will also recommend limiting the following activities:

What Causes Placenta Previa?

The exact cause is unknown.

However, the following can increase your risk:

  • If over the age of 35
  • Had more than four pregnancies
  • Have a history of uterine surgery (regardless of incision type)

How Do I Cope With Placenta Previa?

With all the excitement and anticipation of a healthy delivery, receiving the diagnosis of placenta previa can be a very shocking and frustrating experience. There are support groups for bed rest mothers and even some for mothers with placenta previa. They are available to help you through this difficult time. Your doctor, midwife, or doula should be able to assist you in finding support groups or other women who have also had placenta previa.

Last updated: October 10, 2019 at 9:41 am


Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Ninth Ed. Scott, James R., et al, Ch. 20.

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