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Bleeding can happen at any time during pregnancy. Placental abruption can cause bleeding late in pregnancy. This means after about 20 weeks.
Placental abruption is when the placenta pulls away from where it is attached to the uterus. The placenta has many blood vessels that bring the nutrients from the mother to the developing baby. If the placenta starts to pull away during pregnancy, these blood vessels bleed. The larger the area that pulls away, the greater the amount of bleeding.
A direct blow to the uterus can cause placental abruption. For example, this could happen during a car crash. Doctors do not know what causes it in other cases. It is more likely with the following:
The most common symptom of placental abruption is painful, dark red bleeding from the vagina. It happens during the third trimester of pregnancy. It also can occur during labor. Some women may not have vaginal bleeding that can be seen, but there may be bleeding inside the uterus. Symptoms of placental abruption may include:
The symptoms of placental abruption may look like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose placental abruption based on your symptoms. These include the amount of bleeding and pain. He or she will likely do an ultrasound. This test will show where the bleeding is. He or she will also check on the developing baby.
There are 3 grades of placental abruption:
Sometimes placental abruption is not found until after delivery, when an area of clotted blood is found behind the placenta.
There is no treatment to stop placental abruption or reattach the placenta. Your care depends on how much bleeding you have, how far along your pregnancy is, and how healthy your developing baby is. You may be able to have a vaginal delivery. Or you may need a cesarean delivery if you have severe bleeding or if you or your baby is in danger. You may need a blood transfusion if you lose a lot of blood.
Placental abruption is dangerous because of the risk of uncontrolled bleeding (hemorrhage). This can mean less oxygen and nutrients going to the developing baby. Severe placental abruption is rare. Other complications may include:
Call your healthcare provider about any bleeding you have while pregnant. Bleeding during pregnancy may not be serious. If the bleeding is moderate to severe, or you have pain, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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