What is placental abruption?

Placental abruption (or abruptio placentae) occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before delivery of the baby (the placenta can be partially or completely detached). This is dangerous for the birthing person and baby if it’s not detected quickly. It occurs in 2 to 10 of 1000 births. 

What are possible symptoms of abruption? 

Symptoms may be of varying degree – from no symptoms to severe symptoms 

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain 
  • Firm, taught uterus
  • Fetal heart decelerations (noted during monitoring)

What are the possible consequences of abruption? 

  • Birthing person
    • Blood loss
    • Blood clotting problems
    • Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
    • Cesarean section
    • Repeat abruption in subsequent pregnancies
    • Blood transfusion related complications
    • Future premature cardiovascular disease
    • Death 
  • Baby
    • Lack of oxygen
    • Fetal death
    • Preterm birth
    • Growth restriction (if abruption is chronic/on-going vs sudden)

Risk Factors:
While you can’t always predict who is at greater risk for placental abruption, there are some factors that increase risk that include but are not limited to: 

  • History of abruption 
    • If you have had a previous abruption, you are at greater risk for another one 
    • 10-15x higher
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Cocaine use
  • Uterine anomalies 
  • Trauma, especially to the abdomen

If you have pain or bleeding during your pregnancy it’s always important to contact your provider. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that something such as abruption is occurring, it’s very important to rule it out right away.