What is a Low Lying Placenta?
The placenta is a sac which is responsible for the food and oxygen supply to the baby in the womb and it gets removed from the body once the baby is born. A low lying placenta, also known as Placenta Previa in medical terms is a condition in which the placenta covers a part or the entire cervix during some time or the entire course of pregnancy.
As you progress during the pregnancy, your uterus grows and stretches itself to accommodate the growing baby and this makes the placenta also move. During early pregnancy, the placenta is usually found to be low-lying and gradually it moves up as you near the end of your pregnancy. If, however, it continues to stay low and gets attached to the lower part of the uterus, the cervix gets partially or completely covered and the path for delivery is blocked. Unless a woman gets a low lying placenta very early during the pregnancy; a low lying placenta is usually diagnosed during the scan of the 20th week. Most of the times, a low-lying placenta is diagnosed with a help of a transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound.
Symptoms of a Low Lying Placenta
A low lying placenta is usually characterized by a sudden vaginal bleeding along with one or more of the symptoms given below:
What puts you at a risk of a low-lying placenta?
- Abdominal cramps or shooting pain in the lower abdomen
- Bleeding after an intercourse
- Intermittent bleeding during the entire course of pregnancy
- Bleeding during the end of the second trimester and early in the third trimester
Types of Low Lying Placenta
There are four types of low-lying placenta.
- Previous uterine surgeries such as c-sec, D&C
- Low lying placenta in a previous pregnancy
- Abnormal shape of the uterus
- Cigarette smoking
- Prior miscarriage
- Transverse or breech position of the baby
- Previous pregnancy with twins or more babies
- Large sized placenta
- Maternal age more than 35
- Partial – The cervix is only partially covered by the placenta and it is still possible to have a vaginal birth.
- Low-Lying – It usually begins early in the pregnancy and the placenta sits at the edge of the woman’s cervix. A vaginal birth is very much possible.
- Marginal – In this type of placenta previa, the placenta starts growing at the bottom of the uterus and pushes against it. The placenta touches the internal opening of the cervix and minor bleeding during labor is very common. A vaginal delivery may or may not be possible.
Possible Complications in case of Placenta Previa
Light to heavy bleeding can occur at any time during the pregnancy. The mother may also suffer from internal bleeding and this might make it essential to have an emergency c-sec even if the baby is pre-term. In the absence of immediate action, the mother could bleed to death. At the time of delivery, the mother can suffer from severe hemorrhage.
Treatment of Low Lying Placenta
Most doctors advise the patient to observe complete bed rest. The mother is allowed to sit and stand only when she has to visit the washroom. It might be helpful to prop some pillows below your legs as it can help to move the placenta up or prevent it from moving down further.
No amount of exercise is allowed. Couples are also advised to abstain from any sexual activity. In case of heavy bleeding, the woman might have to be hospitalized and blood transfusions might also be needed. If you have uncontrollable bleeding, an emergency c-sec might have to be performed.
If you are diagnosed with a low lying placenta and are advised bed rest, don’t panic and don’t be afraid. It won’t do any good. Although bed rest is a very boring thing to do, just do it for the sake of your baby and your health. Eat a healthy diet, stay happy and take care of yourself. You’ll have to stop going to work and this may increase your monotony. Don’t sulk; just enjoy this time to yourself by reading your favorite books and watching movies.
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- Complete – As the name suggests, the placenta completely covers the cervix and a vaginal delivery cannot be done in such cases. A caesarean section is recommended and in a few severe cases, the baby might have to be delivered pre-term.