Placental abruption: is it serious? See which symptoms

The placenta is the organ responsible for transmitting all the nutrients and oxygen necessary for the baby to develop and grow healthily.

It is glued to the inside of the uterus and from it comes the umbilical cord that is connected to the baby’s navel.

But this organ can detach, that is, detach itself from the wall of the uterus.

When this happens, the pregnancy and the baby’s life can be compromised, as he has lost his only source of nutrients and oxygen.

In some cases, depending on the baby’s fetal age, the doctor may decide to anticipate delivery.

If the baby is not yet developed enough for a safe early delivery, it is likely that the medical team will take steps to prevent a miscarriage or infection.

When the detachment is large or total, the pregnancy may be in danger. In such cases, the symptoms are:

  • Strong cramps;
  • Intense vaginal bleeding;
  • Discomfort in the abdominal region;
  • Back pain.

However, if the detachment is small or partial, the pregnant woman may manifest the symptoms to a lesser degree or show no signs.

There are still cases where the bleeding is internal and the clot remains between the uterus and the placenta.

Severe discomfort, accelerated heartbeat, swelling and red or purple stains in the region are symptoms that the bleeding is internal.

Placental abruption: is it serious?

It depends on each case. Gestation length is one of the factors that contributes to the seriousness of the situation. The more advanced the pregnancy, the greater the risks caused by the detachment of the placenta.

Before the 20th week (ovular detachment)

When the placenta detaches before the 20th week of pregnancy, the name used by doctors is ovular detachment.

As the baby is still small, if the situation is controlled quickly, chances are good that the pregnancy will continue in a healthy way.

At this stage, ovular detachment usually causes mild pain and internal bleeding.

Between the 20th and the 34th week

In this phase, the detachment can present greater risks if it is total or large.

From the 22nd week (6 months), if the case is very serious and the bleeding threatens the mother’s life, doctors can choose to have a cesarean delivery (although situations like this are rare).

The baby would be born prematurely and would need to be kept in incubators until it was sufficiently sized and weight.

After the 34th week (premature detachment)

Placental abruption occurs after the 34th week of pregnancy.

In these cases, as the baby is already older, if the situation is not treated immediately, the chances of miscarriage or fetal death are high.

This type of condition can cause a lot of pain, in addition to contractions and dilations. In most cases, bleeding is external.

Premature detachment can also interfere with the type of delivery that the pregnant woman will have.

If the case is severe, cesarean section is the most recommended surgery to protect the mother and baby.

If the pregnant woman and the baby recover and are healthy, normal birth can still be an option.

What are the causes?

Each case is different. To find out exactly why the placenta took off, it is necessary to consult a doctor, who will be able to assess the pregnant woman’s clinical history and conclude what caused or favored the detachment.

In general, it can be caused by several factors such as:

  • Intense physical effort;
  • Blows or falls that damaged the chest, back or abdomen;
  • Consumption of alcohol or drugs;
  • Infections or inflammations;
  • High blood pressure or diseases related to blood circulation.

Rare cases of lack of amniotic fluid or rupture of the pouch before the scheduled time can also cause the placenta to detach.

How is the diagnosis and treatment done?

For diagnosis, it is done based on the symptoms and an ultrasound exam. A blood clotting test can also be used to identify the severity of the detachment.

Adequate treatment is done according to each case (age of the mother, time of pregnancy and what caused the detachment are necessary information for the obstetrician to evaluate what should be done).

Stagnation of blood flow should be initiated as soon as the complication is diagnosed. The sooner the woman starts treatment, the lower the risks to her and the baby’s life.

In some cases, it is necessary to use injections to stop the bleeding and ease the pain. It may also be necessary for the pregnant woman to stay in the hospital for a few hours or days, depending on each situation.

When mom and baby are well, they can be discharged. Upon returning home, the pregnant woman may receive medical recommendations that include rest every 2 hours, intake of medications to relieve pain and rest, avoiding physical efforts.

What to do if the placenta dislocates?

Since it is not possible to predict whether and when the placenta will take off, prenatal examinations are the best way to prevent this complication. Upon realizing one of the symptoms (severe vaginal bleeding accompanied by severe pain in the pelvis and back), the pregnant woman should urgently seek the nearest medical service.

When being attended to, the pregnant woman must inform her age, her gestational age, what are the symptoms she is presenting and if she has had a fall, stroke, infection, other complications during pregnancy, etc.

With this information, the medical team will be able to diagnose the problem and treat it correctly.

The detachment of the placenta can bring some complications for the baby such as bruises, clots, anemia or low birth weight.

Women who have had placental detachment in other pregnancies are more likely to have the problem again.


The detachment of the placenta is a condition that can compromise the life and development of the little one.

To avoid this complication, do not use drugs or alcohol, avoid suffering trauma or blows and treat infections, heart disease and high blood pressure .

Again, it is necessary to remember that prenatal examinations are important because they can prevent many complications during pregnancy and, thus, ensure more health and well-being for mom and baby.

The Healthy Minute provides further information on pregnancy care . Be sure to follow our posts!

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