Skip to Content

Placental Abruption Resources from UPMC in Central Pa.

Placental abruption is an uncommon condition of pregnancy that occurs when your placenta partially or completely separates from the inner wall of your uterus before your baby is delivered.

Because your placenta provides nourishment to your baby, placental abruption can deprive your baby of oxygen and other nutrients and increase the risk of stillbirth or preterm delivery. Placental abruption can also cause heavy bleeding, placing you in danger of shock from blood loss.

Although placental abruption can be caused by trauma, such as a fall or sharp blow to the abdomen, the specific causes are often unknown. You may be at higher risk of placental abruption if you have certain conditions, including:

  • Previous placental abruption
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance abuse issues – smoking, use of cocaine or crack
  • Premature leaking or breaking of the amniotic sac
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Pregnancies with multiples, such as twins or triplets
  • Advanced maternal age, especially if you are older than 40

Symptoms of Placental Abruption

Placental abruption usually happens suddenly and is most likely to occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. The condition requires immediate treatment, so you should visit your nearest hospital emergency department if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Uterine tenderness
  • Uterine contractions

Sometimes placental abruption can develop slowly, causing light vaginal bleeding or vaginal bleeding that stops and starts. Any episodes of vaginal bleeding, no matter how minor they may seem, should be reported to your physician immediately.


If your physician suspects that you have placental abruption, he or she will conduct a thorough physical exam, order blood tests and may order an ultrasound. Your physician will consider a number of factors when determining treatment options, such as your condition, the amount of bleeding, your baby’s heart rate and your baby’s gestational age.

Even though it is not possible to reattach the placenta, your physician may suggest:

  • Bed rest
  • Hospitalization
  • Blood transfusion
  • Medication to help decrease the risk your baby will have breathing difficulties
  • C-section delivery
  • Closely monitored vaginal delivery

In cases of severe, uncontrollable bleeding, your physician may need to remove your uterus after your baby is delivered using a procedure called a hysterectomy.

Need more information?

Phone: 717-231-8472 

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

Connect with the UPMC Central PA Portal app 24/7

The UPMC Central PA Portal provides patients with convenient and secure access to their health information right at their fingertips. View test results. Get virtual care. Message your care team. Schedule and manage appointments. And much more.

Log-In or Sign Up Today

Contact UPMC

When it comes to health care for you and your family, UPMC is here. It's easy to find the right doctor, health screenings, programs, classes, and more.

Contact UPMC in central Pa.