Posts Tagged ‘placenta previa’

Severe bleeding during pregnancy can be placenta previa

Monday, July 27th, 2015

contemplative pregnant woman During my mom’s pregnancy with me, she was diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits on the top of the vagina. If you have placenta previa, when your labor starts, your cervix begins to thin out and dilate (open up), and the blood vessels connecting the placenta to your uterus may tear. This can cause severe bleeding.

My mom remembers the day I was born, like it was yesterday. She remembers my Aunt running down the hall to get towels for her while she stood in the bathroom bleeding during her third trimester. She was rushed to the hospital and had an emergency Cesarean section (C-section) performed. My mom says she can still remember what the pressure felt like on her lower abdomen during the procedure.

We don’t know what causes placenta previa, which happens in about 1 in 200 pregnancies. If you have placenta previa early in pregnancy, it usually isn’t a problem. However, it can cause serious bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.

Diagnosis and symptoms

The most common symptom of placenta previa is painless bleeding from the vagina during the second half of pregnancy. If you have spotting or bleeding during pregnancy, it’s important you call your provider right away. But, not all women with placenta previa have vaginal bleeding. In fact, about one-third of women with placenta previa don’t have this symptom. An ultrasound can usually pinpoint the placenta’s location to determine if you have placenta previa.

Is there treatment?

Treatment depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy, the seriousness of your bleeding and the health of you and your baby. The goal is to keep you pregnant as long as possible, but at any stage of pregnancy, a C-section may be necessary if you have dangerously heavy bleeding or if you and your baby are having problems.

How can I reduce my risk?

We don’t know how to prevent placenta previa, but you may be able to reduce your risk by not smoking or doing illicit drugs such as cocaine. If you have a healthy pregnancy, and there isn’t a medical reason for you to have a C-section, it’s best to let labor begin on its own. The more C-sections you have, the greater your risk of placenta previa.

As soon as my mom held me in her arms, she said she forgot all about the scary hours beforehand. She was so grateful that she had gone to the hospital when she did.

Remember, if you have spotting or bleeding at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away or go to the emergency room.

Bleeding during pregnancy – what does it mean?

Monday, July 6th, 2015

bleeding during pregnancyIf you are pregnant and experience spotting or bleeding, it can be very scary. When you see blood, your first thought may be “is my baby ok?” Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy is common. Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting.

Bleeding? Spotting? What’s the difference?

Spotting is light bleeding and happens when you have a few drops of blood in your underwear. Bleeding is a heavier flow of blood, enough that you need a panty liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking your underwear or clothes.

Bleeding in early pregnancy

Bleeding doesn’t always mean there’s a problem, but it can be a sign of serious complications. There are several things that may cause bleeding early in your pregnancy, such as having sex, an infection, or changes in your cervix and hormones. You may bleed a little when the embryo attaches to the lining of your uterus (called implantation bleeding). This may occur 10-14 days after fertilization. Although this spotting is usually earlier and lighter than a menstrual period, some women don’t notice the difference, and don’t even realize they’re pregnant.

Sometimes bleeding and spotting in the first trimester can be a sign of a serious problem such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy. But keep in mind that bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage. At least half of women who have spotting or light bleeding early in pregnancy don’t miscarry.

Bleeding in late pregnancy

Causes of late pregnancy bleeding include labor, sex, an internal exam by your provider or problems with your cervix, such as an infection or cervical insufficiency. It could also be a sign of preterm labor, placenta previa, placental abruption or uterine rupture.

How to tell if the bleeding is dangerous

Bleeding or spotting can happen anytime, from the time you get pregnant to right before you give birth. Bleeding can be a sign of a serious complication, so it’s important you call your prenatal care provider if you have any bleeding or spotting, even if it stops. If the bleeding is not serious, it’s still important that your provider finds out the cause. Do not use a tampon, douche or have sex if you’re bleeding.

Before you call your provider, write down these things:

• How heavy your bleeding is. Is it getting heavier or lighter and how many pads are you using?
• The color of the blood. It can be different colors, like brown, dark or bright red.

Go to the emergency room if you have:

• Heavy bleeding
• Bleeding with pain or cramping
• Dizziness and bleeding
• Pain in your belly or pelvis

Treatment for your bleeding depends on the cause. You may need a medical exam or tests performed by your provider.

Bottom Line

If you are bleeding or spotting at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away and describe what you are experiencing. It’s important that your bleeding or spotting is evaluated to determine if it is dangerous to you and your baby.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Smoking causes birth defects

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

stop-smokingTo dispel any uncertainty about the serious harm caused to babies and pregnant women by smoking, the first-ever comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years has established clearly that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (for example, of the eyes and cleft lip/palate).

Smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, says Dr. Michael Katz, senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes. He says the March of Dimes urges all women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant to quit smoking now to reduce their chance of having a baby born prematurely or with a serious birth defect. Babies who survive being born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, Dr. Katz notes, including lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Smoking also can make it harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of stillbirth.

About 20 percent of women in the United States reported smoking in 2009. Around the world, about 250 million women use tobacco every day and this number is increasing rapidly, according to data presented at the 2009 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai.

The new study, “Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173,687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls,” by a team led by Allan Hackshaw, Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London, was published online January 17th in Human Reproduction Update from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

When women smoke during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Katz says. These chemicals can deprive the baby of oxygen needed for healthy growth and development.

During pregnancy, smoking can cause problems for a woman’s own health, including:

• Ectopic pregnancy

• Vaginal bleeding

• Placental abruption, in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery

• Placenta previa, a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus

Smoking is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, there has never been a better time to quit.

You can read the Surgeon General’s report: The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress at this link.

How safe is sex during pregnancy?

Monday, February 25th, 2013

in-bed1There are lots of myths about sex and pregnancy, such as:
– Sex can be harmful or painful during pregnancy.
– Intercourse could hurt the baby.
– The baby somehow “knows” that sex is taking place.

The truth is that unless your doc or midwife advises you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for the vast majority of us. And as for the baby, he or she has no idea what Mom and Dad are doing. The baby is well protected by a cushion of fluid in the womb and by the mom’s abdomen.

There are some circumstances, however, that can make sex during pregnancy unsafe. Women who have the following health complications should talk to their health provider before engaging in sex:
– A history or risk of miscarriage
– A previous preterm birth or other risk factors for preterm birth
– Unexplained vaginal bleeding, discharge or cramping
– Leaking amniotic fluid
Placenta previa (when the placenta is low and covers the cervix)
Incompetent cervix (when the cervix is weakened and opens too soon)

If your pregnancy is considered to be high risk, you may need to be more cautious than other women. Your health care provider may advise you to avoid intercourse for all or part of your pregnancy. This is an important conversation to have, so don’t be shy.

But again, for most of us, sex is safe, nothing to fear and may even become a more intimate experience. Many women find that pregnancy makes them want sex more than they did before they became pregnant. This sex drive is caused by hormonal changes. For some women, newfound voluptuousness can play a role in making them feel sexier than ever.

Other women may find that their sex drive comes in waves while pregnant. Here is a link to some common changes you may find throughout your stages of pregnancy.

What is placenta previa?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

During pregnancy, the placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. (The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina.)

Placenta previa happens in about 1 in 200 pregnancies. If you have placenta previa early in pregnancy, it usually isn’t a problem. It will be monitored, however, because it can cause serious bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.

Normally, the placenta grows into the upper part of the uterus wall, away from the cervix. It stays there until your baby is born. During the last stage of labor, the placenta separates from the wall, and your contractions help push it into the vagina (birth canal). This is also called the afterbirth.

During labor, your baby passes through the cervix into the birth canal. If you have placenta previa, when the cervix begins to efface (thin out) and dilate (open up) for labor, blood vessels connecting the placenta to the uterus may tear. This can cause severe bleeding during labor and birth, putting you and your baby in danger.

The most common symptom of placenta previa is painless bleeding from the vagina during the second half of pregnancy. Call your health care provider right away if you have vaginal bleeding anytime during your pregnancy. If the bleeding is severe, go to the hospital.

An ultrasound usually can find placenta previa and pinpoint the placenta’s location. In some cases, your provider may use a transvaginal ultrasound instead.

Even if you don’t have vaginal bleeding, a routine, second trimester ultrasound may show that you have placenta previa. Don’t be too worried if this happens. Placenta previa found in the second trimester fixes itself in most cases.

Treatment depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy, the seriousness of your bleeding and the health of you and your baby. To learn more, read our article on placenta previa.

When exercise isn’t a good idea

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

pregnant-exerciseMany women want to get into really good shape before having a baby. This is an excellent idea, because you don’t want to diet or start a new and aggressive exercise routine when you’re pregnant. Start a healthy habit now.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy pregnant women get at least 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise every week. This means that most pregnant women should try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most, if not all, days. Go for it, exercise during pregnancy and stay fit.

BUT, If you have any of the conditions below, do not exercise. Check with your health care provider.

• Heart disease
• Lung disease
• Incompetent cervix: The cervix is the narrow, outer end of the uterus. If it is weak, it cannot hold the fetus in the uterus.
• Preterm labor (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy)
• Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets or more) at risk for preterm labor
• Frequent bleeding from the vagina during months 4-9 of pregnancy
• Placenta previa: The placenta connects the baby’s blood supply to the mother’s blood. Attached to the mother’s uterus, it is an unborn baby’s lifeline. Placenta previa is a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the cervix. This can block the baby’s exit from the uterus.
• Hypertension

Remember, if you experience any symptoms of a problem, or your’e just not sure, stop exercising and call you doc right away.

Smoking causes serious birth defects

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
smoking4To dispel any uncertainty about the serious harm caused by smoking to babies and pregnant women, the first-ever comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years has established clearly that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (for example, of the eyes and cleft lip/palate).
 
Smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, says Dr. Michael Katz, senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes. He says the March of Dimes urges all women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant to quit smoking now to reduce their chance of having a baby born prematurely or with a serious birth defect. Babies who survive being born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, Dr. Katz notes, including lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Smoking also can make it harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of stillbirth.

Around the world, about 250 million women use tobacco every day and this number is increasing rapidly, according to data presented at the 2009 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai.

The new study, “Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173,687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls,” by a team led by Allan Hackshaw, Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London, was published online today in Human Reproduction Update from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

When women smoke during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Katz says. These chemicals can deprive the baby of oxygen needed for healthy growth and development.

During pregnancy, smoking can cause problems for a woman’s own health, including: ectopic pregnancyvaginal bleeding; placental abruption, in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery; placenta previa, a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus. 

Smoking is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

Pregnancy in your late 40s

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

pregnant-womanMany of us have heard that Kelly Preston, wife of John Travolta, is pregnant at the age of 47. Wow, you go girl!  I hear some women asking “If she can, why can’t I?”  Good question, complicated answer.

Women over age 35 may be less fertile than younger women because they tend to ovulate (release an egg from the ovaries) less frequently. Certain health conditions that are more common in this age group also may interfere with conception. These include endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes and fibroids.

A woman over age 35 should consult her health care provider if she has not conceived after 6 months of trying. Studies suggest that about one-third of women between 35 and 39 and about half of those over age 40 have fertility problems.  At age 47, most babies are conceived with some form of fertility treatment.   This can be time consuming and expensive.

Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester for women of all ages. The risk of miscarriage increases with age. Studies suggest that about 10 percent of recognized pregnancies for women in their 20s end in miscarriage. The risk rises to about 35 percent at ages 40 to 44 and more than 50 percent by age 45. The age-related increased risk of miscarriage is caused, at least in part, by increases in chromosomal abnormalities.

Women in their late 30s and 40s are very likely to have a healthy baby. However, they may face more complications along the way than younger women. Some complications that are more common in women over 35 include: gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, placental problems, premature birth, stillbirth.  About 47% of women over age 40 give birth via cesarean section.

All these things taken into consideration, many women who do conceive in their late 40s, either on their own (unlikely but not impossible) or with some fertility treatment, do manage to have healthy babies.  The important thing to remember is to have a preconception checkup and early and regular prenatal care.