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Placenta Praevia

This condition, in which the placenta develops low down in the uterus rather than high up as is normal, occurs in about one in every 200 pregnancies. As the uterus stretches in late pregnancy, the placenta is pulled away from its original position and bright-red bleeding results. The diagnosis is confirmed by ultrasound, and the mother is usually advised to stay in hospital in case further bleeding develops. When a complete placenta praevia is present - one in which the placenta covers the cervix - delivery usually has to be by Caesarean section, to prevent damage to the placenta by the emerging baby, so depriving the baby of oxygen.

Cause

The most common cause of placenta praevia is an abnormality in the uterine wall or the abnormal formation of the placenta itself. The placenta may be too large to fit comfortably in the uterus and thus may lie lower than usual. The risk for placenta praevia increases with each pregnancy. Also mother of closely spaced children may be at an increased risk. Pregnant women carrying multiple babies are also at an increased risk.

Symptoms

Placenta praevia is manifested around the third trimester of pregnancy, usually after the twenty eight week. It is marked by profuse vaginal bleeding which is sudden and painless. Some cramping and heaviness of the uterus may occur which may also prepone labour.

Prevention

There are no known ways to insure the appropriate placement of the placenta in the uterus. However, careful treatment of the problem can result in the best chance for a good outcome for both mother and baby.

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