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Placental Abruption: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

Updated March 26, 2021 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

The events that occur at the start of your child’s life can have an impact on their entire future. In most cases, pregnancy and birth go well for both mother and child. Beyond the nervousness about growing your family, there’s little to worry about.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go as planned, and tragedies can happen that can hurt both mother and child—sometimes fatally, but often with lifelong complications.

Placental abruption is one such condition. Your OB/GYN should be able to tell what to do in an emergency, and if they fail to take the appropriate course of action, the consequences could be life altering.

What Is Placental Abruption?

The placenta is an organ that develops inside of a mother’s uterus during pregnancy. It is attached to the uterine wall and connects to the child through the umbilical cord. The placenta provides the fetus with nutrients and oxygen, allows it to dispose of waste, and protects against infections. A process called abruption severs this vital connection between mother and child either partially or completely.

In mothers, placental abruption can lead to shock from blood loss, blood clotting problems, a need for a blood transfusion, and even organ failure. In extreme cases where the bleeding can’t be controlled, an emergency hysterectomy might become necessary. For babies, placental abruption can deprive them of oxygen and nutrients, which can lead to growth problems, premature birth, or even stillbirth.

Treatment and Diagnosis

Treatment for a placental abruption will depend upon how early or late in pregnancy it occurs. If abruption happens after 34 weeks, when the baby is close to full-term, a closely-monitored vaginal delivery could be possible. In cases where the abruption is severe, it might require an immediate delivery, often by C-section. If it’s early in the pregnancy and the abruption is mild, a mother may be admitted to a hospital for monitoring.

Symptoms include bleeding, very rapid contractions, back pain, and uterine pain. Abruption is diagnosed by a physical exam, blood tests, or ultrasounds.

What Causes Placental Abruption?

There isn’t any one specific cause of placental abruption, and it can’t be directly prevented. There are actions a mother can take to reduce her risk of abruption, but no matter how careful you are, accidents can still happen. Placental abruption is most likely to occur in the last trimester and within the few weeks before delivery. Risk factors and potential causes include:

  • Trauma or injury to the abdomen, like in a fall or auto accident
  • Anything that causes a rapid loss of amniotic fluid
  • A previous placental abruption
  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced maternal age, usually over 40
  • Being pregnant with more than one child or having had multiple babies in the past
  • Blood-clotting disorders
  • Chronic hypertension, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or other health conditions
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Fibroids
  • Maternal infection
  • Short / related umbilical cord problems

Placental Abruption Causes and Symptoms

Placental abruption can and often does happen suddenly, but it may also develop slowly and give you time to react before the situation becomes a full-blown emergency. No matter why it happens, placental abruption always needs medical attention. Call your doctor or visit the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Any amount of vaginal bleeding
  • Sudden abdominal or back pain
  • Tenderness around the uterus
  • Rapid contractions, with little or no time between them

Common Negligence Scenarios Leading to Placental Abruption

Many medical providers are diligent, but when they aren’t, it may be time for a birth injury attorney to step in and help you and your child get justice. Common negligence scenarios include:

  • Failure to diagnose placental abruption
  • Delayed treatment
  • Failure to provide proper treatment after the diagnosis of placental abruption

Contact a Birth Injury Attorney Today

You can’t always protect your child from the world, but you have every right to expect your doctor to do their best to ensure they come into the world safe and healthy. A competent doctor knows the signs of placenta abruption and will provide you and your baby the care you need promptly. If you have been injured or have lost a family member as a result of someone else’s medical negligence, there is help available.

An Indianapolis birth injury lawyer at Wilson Kehoe Winingham will have years of experience dealing with cases like yours and a passion for getting families the care that they need. If dealing with placental abruption – attorney and staff can help you build a case and ensure you’re not alone during this difficult time. Money can’t replace a life or bring back what you’ve lost, but it can get you closer to moving forward.

Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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