When we become pregnant, we get more attuned to our body and anything that has to do with babies, pregnancy, and childbirth. This may be through our gynaecologist who explains what's happening to our baby during regular checkups, or when we do your own research to prepare for delivery. Along with the many changes in our body and the development of the baby, we also need to know about possible complications: one of these is placenta previa.
What is the placenta?
When you get pregnant, the placenta develops in the uterus. This organ supports the growing fetus in your womb. It adheres to your uterus wall--usually at the top or the side--and is responsible for eliminating waste and bringing in nutrients and oxygen to your little one.
Aside from that, it is the starting point of the all-too-important umbilical cord. It grows as the baby grows together with the increase of your amniotic fluid.
Here are the other roles of the placenta:
- removes waste from your baby blood to yours
- keeps the baby's and your blood separate to protect your little one from infections
- secretes progesterone and estrogen to prevent early labor
- produces hormones that help trigger labor when the time is right
- passes antibodies to the baby
- acts as a cushion while your baby is in the womb
What is placenta previa?
This condition is also known as low-lying placenta, which is exactly what it is. Usually, the placenta adheres to the top or side of the uterus. But sometimes, it lies low in the uterus that it partially or completely blocks the cervical opening or the lower part of the uterus that leads to your vagina.
This condition is potentially life-threatening because it can cause severe maternal bleeding.
There are three kinds of placenta previa:
- complete previa - the cervical opening is completely covered
- partial previa - the placenta only covers a part of the cervix
- marginal previa - the placenta extends to the edge of the cervix
Risk factors for placenta previa
There's nothing much you can do to prevent placenta previa, but here are some risk factors of the condition:
- smoking and drug use
- pregnancy when the woman's more than 35 years of age
- being pregnant with multiples
- previous C-sections
- endometrial scarring
Uterine factors like scarring of the uterus' lining tissues may also contribute to this condition. This could be caused by previous surgeries such as those for removing fibroids. When the embryo also plants itself low in the uterus, this can cause the placenta to position itself low.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for
Sometimes, you don't see symptoms of placenta previa. However, your doctor may catch it during a routine ultrasound so don't skip your checkups. Here are some of the signs you shouldn't ignore:
- bleeding - Watch out for vaginal bleeding during the second trimester onwards. It is usually painless and bright red, and may range from light to heavy. It also typically stops on its own, but may also return after several days or weeks. This can also happen when you strain yourself or have sexual intercourse.
- cramping - For some women with placenta previa, they experience light to moderate cramping.
You can't really cure placenta previa through medication but you may be given drugs to prevent preterm labor. What you can expect is for your pregnancy to be closely monitored. Sometimes, the placenta corrects itself as it grows.
In any case, your doctor will advise you to have additional ultrasounds to check on the position of your placenta. Your doctor will also closely monitor your little one's heartbeat.
Other preventive measures you may be advised to do are the following:
- Bed rest. Use a pregnancy pillow to make yourself more comfortable.
- Avoid strenuous activities and exercises
- Avoid sex
- No douching
- No lifting of heavy objects.
While you cannot outright prevent placenta previa, it is good to know about the risk factors and learn what you can do to manage the condition.
It's also best to have a good relationship with your doctor. You'll need to have open communication with your gynaecologist. You should be able to ask pertinent questions to make careful and thorough decisions.
If you don't have a gynaecologist yet, check out this list of the best doctors on the island as reviewed by Singapore moms themselves.
Original Publisher: theAsianparent