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Placenta Previa Resources from UPMC in central Pa.

Placenta previa occurs when your placenta partially or completely covers the opening of your cervix.

What is Placenta Previa?

In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches near the top or side of the uterine wall. If you have placenta previa, your placenta attaches near the bottom of your uterus and causes the opening of your cervix to be partially or totally blocked.

Because of your placenta’s position you have an increased risk of severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. Your physician may recommend a planned cesarean (C-section) to avoid going into labor.

Certain conditions may increase your risk of developing placenta previa, including:

  • Previous surgeries involving the uterus, such as a C-section, surgery to remove uterine fibroids, or dilation and curettage (D & C)
  • Placenta previa in a previous pregnancy
  • Pregnancies with multiples, such as twins or triplets
  • Being older than 35 during pregnancy
  • Substance abuse issues – smoking, use of cocaine or crack

Symptoms of Placenta Previa

The main symptom of placenta previa is painless, bright red vaginal bleeding that occurs during the second or third trimester of your pregnancy. Sometimes the bleeding stops without treatment and may start again within a few days or weeks.

Bleeding can range from light to heavy, and you may experience contractions. Any episodes of vaginal bleeding, no matter how minor they may seem, should be reported to your physician immediately. If you have severe bleeding, you should go to the nearest hospital emergency department.


Placenta previa is diagnosed during an ultrasound examination. Your physician will assess your condition and consider a number of factors before recommending the best course of treatment, including how much you are bleeding, your baby’s gestational age, the position of your placenta, the position of your baby, and the health of you and your baby.

Depending on your condition and the health of your baby, your physician may suggest:

  • Bed rest
  • Avoiding certain activities like sexual intercourse and exercise
  • Hospitalization
  • Blood transfusion
  • Medication to decrease the risk of your baby having breathing difficulties or prevent premature labor
  • C-section delivery

Your physician will also avoid performing vaginal examinations to reduce the risk of disturbing your placenta and causing bleeding.

Need more information?

Phone: 717-231-8472 

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about pregnancy complications.

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