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DAYTON, Ohio (August 17, 2017) – Women diagnosed with placenta previa early in their pregnancy should be careful that the discovery doesn’t steal the joy they have for the upcoming birth of their child.

Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta implants low in a woman’s uterus very close to or even on top of the opening of her cervix. The condition is often asymptomatic and is usually discovered during a woman’s routine 20-week ultrasound. In most cases, placenta previa will resolve itself by the time a woman reaches her third, and final, trimester but that knowledge may not be enough to keep some moms from worrying about their pregnancy, according to Katherine Bachman, MD, an OB/Gyn physician with Upper Valley Women’s Center.

“An expectant mom can have a lot of anxiety surrounding the diagnosis of a placenta previa partly because it is an unknown,” said Dr. Bachman, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “I try to reassure my patients that it is a very common finding early on in pregnancy, but unfortunately it is a matter of waiting, and waiting can be the hardest thing in a pregnancy.”

Placenta previa that completely covers the cervix opening usually has a small chance of resolution and may require a cesarean birth scheduled around 37 weeks gestation. However, many women are diagnosed with a low-lying placenta, which means the placenta has implanted within 2.0 centimeters from the cervix. These cases often resolve by the third trimester because the placenta can shift away from the cervix as the uterus grows. 

The exact cause of placenta previa is unknown, although researchers believe there are several risk factors for the condition such as smoking, cocaine use, recurrent miscarriages, multiple pregnancies, prior uterine surgery, and the use of reproductive technology. 

“The theory is that these factors cause disruption to the endometrial lining that sends out signals to the placenta as to where to invade and how deep to implant,” Dr. Bachman said.

The biggest risk factor for placenta previa is maternal bleeding, according to Samantha Wiegand, MD, who specializes in maternal fetal medicine at Perinatal Partners, also a part of Premier Physician Network. For this reason, women return for an ultrasound at 32 weeks to see if the placenta has shifted and are coached, in the meantime, on simple steps they can take to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Pelvic rest – Women are advised to limit their activity in the third trimester to reduce the risk for bleeding or uterine contractions. This is often referred to as pelvic rest and is much different than bed rest, which would require a woman to be completely off her feet. Pelvic rest also means couples should take a break from intercourse until the baby is safely delivered, Dr. Wiegand said.

Increased iron – Physicians may prescribe iron supplements for women with placenta previa to help safeguard her body if extra blood loss were to happen.

Close monitoring – Women who have been diagnosed with placenta previa will require a little extra monitoring. Women should expect to see their physician at least one extra time for an ultrasound. This will help determine what type of delivery method will be the safest for mom and baby. 

“I usually tell women that they can maintain their normal level of activity, but if they notice contractions to take it easy and drink some water,” Dr. Wiegand said. “Overall, they shouldn’t feel as if they should alter what they do.”

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