Symptoms and Signs of Placenta Previa in Pregnancy

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Placenta Previa in Pregnancy

Placenta previa is a complication of pregnancy when the placenta is planted near, partially covering, or completely covering the uterus outlet. The primary signs and symptoms of placenta previa are 

  • vaginal bleeding after the 20th week of fetal growth.
  • In many patients, there is no pain associated with the bleeding;
  • however, some patients develop uterine contractions and 
  • abdominal pain.

Unfortunately, bleeding can range from light to severely heavy (heavy bleeding can be life-threatening to the mother and fetus).

  • Bleeding after the 20th week of pregnancy is a sign the woman should immediately seek medical care.

The cause of placenta previa is due to the location of the placenta in the uterus. Some factors predispose a woman to develop placenta previa during her pregnancy. Such factors are as follows:

  • scar tissue in the upper areas of the uterus,
  • prior cesarean deliveries,
  • prior D&C procedures for miscarriages or induced abortions, and
  • any prior surgery or instrumentation on the uterine cavity.

What is the treatment for placenta previa?

There are no medical or surgical cures for placenta previa. Treatments are designed to manage to bleed and to help you to carry your baby as close to your due date as safely as possible. For example:

  • Little or no vaginal bleeding
    • Rest
    • Avoid activities that might trigger bleeding (exercises, sex)
    • If heavier bleeding starts, go to a hospital
    • If the placenta does not cover the cervix, possible vaginal delivery 
  • Heavy bleeding
    • Go to a hospital
    • Possible blood transfusion
    • Consider C-section
    • Possible corticosteroids are given if delivery before 37 weeks for baby’s lung development
  • Non-stop bleeding and/or fetal distress
    • Call 911
    • Likely blood transfusion
    • Emergency C-section even if the baby is premature

You and your OB/GYN doctor need to discuss possible outcomes with your Placenta previa.


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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.