What is Placenta Previa, and Does it Pose a Risk to Baby?

Placenta previaPlacenta previa is a serious condition that may affect a pregnant mother and lead to potentially fatal complications. This condition occurs when the placenta forms too close to the uterine wall and covers the cervix either partially or completely. Proper placenta growth is essential for a healthy delivery; it provides nutrition and oxygen to the developing baby throughout pregnancy and attaches to the baby’s navel with an umbilical cord. The placenta also helps remove waste materials from the baby’s blood.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Placenta Previa

The most noticeable sign of placenta previa is vaginal bleeding that may range in severity from light to heavy with a bright red color. When a pregnant mother develops placenta previa, labor and delivery can be extremely difficult so most attending physicians will require planned cesarean section operations. However, even with a planned C-section, bleeding can reach life-threatening levels.

Some pregnant mothers will develop placenta previa before the baby reaches full term and before going into labor. When this occurs, she will need an emergency C-section and the baby will be born prematurely. If a mother has severe bleeding during her pregnancy, the attending doctor may prescribe corticosteroids. These medications work to boost the baby’s lung development to help minimize the risks commonly associated with early delivery.

Doctors typically check the formation of the placenta during the mid-pregnancy ultrasound session at around 20 weeks into the pregnancy. It is possible for the placenta to shift and migrate away from the cervix during the remainder of the pregnancy, so a pregnant mother who receives a partial placenta previa diagnosis should not panic. Only about 20% of women with low-lying placentas or partial placenta previa will still have it during delivery. Appropriate monitoring throughout the pregnancy can track placental growth, and a doctor may recommend pelvic rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Delivery With Placenta Previa

Even with partial placenta previa, a mother will require a C-section. Since the placenta borders or covers the cervix, cervical dilation can cause the placenta to bleed profusely during delivery. A woman with placenta previa will likely experience some vaginal bleeding during the third trimester, but once cervical dilations begin they can damage the blood vessels in the area and cause severe bleeding.

If a mother is near full term when she starts experiencing bleeding, the attending physician will likely perform a C-section delivery immediately. If the baby is premature, an immediate C-section may be necessary if the bleeding is heavy and uncontrollable. In some cases, an attending doctor may have the mother remain in the hospital for observation until the bleeding stops. Corticosteroids help the baby’s lung growth and can help prevent complications that often arise during premature deliveries.

Proper Care for Placenta Previa

Any mother who shows signs of placenta previa during pregnancy requires careful monitoring and appropriate treatment. The consequences of unchecked placenta previa can be severe or even potentially life-threatening to both the mother and her baby. If placenta previa demands early delivery of a premature baby, the baby can experience several negative effects including low birth rate and breathing problems that may cause brain damage and cerebral palsy.

When an attending doctor fails to monitor a pregnant patient properly, and her baby develops cerebral palsy or other birth defects as a result, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice. The medical community establishes clear standards of care for every known medical condition, including placenta previa. If a doctor fails to provide treatment that met the standard of care required for a patient’s condition and causes harm to a pregnant mother or her baby, the injured patient will likely have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor.