What is Placental Abruption?

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Placental abruption is a serious and sometimes deadly condition in which the placenta partially or completely separates from the wall of the uterus before birth.The placenta is the “lifeline” for the fetus, delivering the baby’s only source of oxygen and removing all waste products.  During a normal pregnancy, the placenta stays attached to the uterus until the baby is born, and then separates from the uterusbefore being expelled through the birth canal (afterbirth). Placental abruption often happens suddenly, and the mother will typically experience a large amount of bleeding.When this happens, the baby may not be getting enough oxygen and nutrients in the womb.  Without appropriate medical care, placental abruption puts the lives of both mother and baby in jeopardy.

The cause of placental abruption remains a mystery. However, a pregnant woman has a higher risk for placental abruption if she smokes cigarettes, uses illegal drugs (especially cocaine), is 35 years or older, has high blood pressure, has an infection in her uterus, or has increased amniotic fluid around the baby. Other risk factors includea physical trauma to the abdomen (such as after a car accident or assault),a previous placental abruption, orrapid loss of amniotic fluid.  While risks of abruption can be reduced by timely and adequate medical treatment and refraining from activities that increase the risk, placental abruption cannot be prevented in all cases.

The main symptoms of placental abruption include: vaginal bleeding,rapid uterine contractions, uterine discomfort and tendernessunlike the pain felt during contractions, or sudden, ongoing stomach and/or back pain. A doctor diagnoses placental abruption by performing a physical exam and an ultrasound. Once diagnosed, the method for which the doctor treats the placental abruption depends upon how serious the abruption is and how far along the mother is in her pregnancy.  While simply monitoring the mother and baby may be appropriate for minor placental abruption in the second trimester, a severe abruption in the third trimester often requires an emergency caesarean section.

If the mother has significant blood loss due to an abruption, she may suffer from shock, need a blood transfusion, have blood clotting problems, or experience failure of her kidneys or other organs.  In very rare cases, excessive uncontrolled bleeding may result in a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus).  These kinds of problems often require the mother to be admitted to the intensive care unit after delivery.  If a severe placental abruption occurs, the baby is at higher risk for growth problems, premature birth or stillbirth.

According to the March of Dimes, about 1 in 100 pregnant women experience placental abruption.  While it typically occurs in the third trimester, placental abruption can happen any time after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

If you believe you or your baby suffered from complications due to a placental abruption, please contact our expert birth injury lawyers for help. Call us at 877-262-9767 to discuss your unique situation.

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