Expectant mothers suffering from placenta previa can experience severe bleeding that threatens their lives and the lives of their unborn children. When a mother develops this dangerous condition, her baby may need to be delivered prematurely, prior to the development of lungs and other vital organs.
When placenta previa occurs or worsens due to a medical error, litigation requires the expertise of attorneys experienced with the details of this complex condition. The team at Davis Levin Livingston has significant experience with cases involving birth injuries and other pregnancy and birth complications.
Placenta Previa Definition
Placenta previa develops when the placenta — which nourishes a growing baby and removes waste from the baby’s blood — grows too low in the womb, blocking the cervix opening. The condition can result in serious complications, including:
- Restriction of the pregnant woman from physical exertion.
- Potentially life-threatening hemorrhaging during labor, during delivery or shortly after delivery.
- Premature birth, which may necessitate an emergency Cesarean delivery.
In a normal pregnancy, the placenta affixes to the uterine wall at the location of embryo implantation, typically at the side or top of the uterus. In a case of placenta previa, the placenta becomes attached much lower in the uterus.
The condition typically is diagnosed through an ultrasound during the second trimester. It sometimes resolves on its own as the uterus expands and gradually pulls the placenta higher.
What Causes Placenta Previa
Placenta previa manifests in approximately one of every 200 pregnancies. The condition is associated with a number of risk factors, including:
- Scarring in the uterus lining, sometimes from a prior surgery such as a C-section, removal of uterine fibroids or dilation and curettage.
- A uterus that is abnormally shaped.
- Being older than 35 during a pregnancy.
- Being of a race other than Caucasian.
- More than one previous pregnancy.
- A case of placenta previa with a previous baby.
- An unusually large placenta, which can occur when more than one embryo is present.
- Smoking or cocaine use.
- In-vitro fertilization.
During pregnancy, the placenta often becomes positioned low in the uterus. In a healthy pregnancy, however, the placenta moves higher in the womb and typically is near the top of the uterus by the third trimester to open the cervix for delivery.
Placenta previa can occur in several different forms:
- Marginal: The placenta does not cover the cervix opening.
- Partial: The placenta covers some part of the opening.
- Complete: The placenta fully covers the cervix opening.
Symptoms of Placenta Previa
The primary symptom of placenta previa is sudden vaginal bleeding during the end of the second trimester or early in the third trimester. Bleeding can range from light to heavy, but most women do not experience pain. Some women do feel contractions or cramps, however.
The bleeding often stops without treatment, but it typically returns after days or weeks, and it can become life-threatening. Labor may begin within a few days of heavy bleeding, or bleeding may not start until after a woman is in labor.
A pregnant woman who experiences bleeding in her second or third trimester should call her doctor. If bleeding is heavy, she should seek immediate medical care.
Placenta Previa Diagnosis
If you have been diagnosed with placenta previa, your doctor will weigh the risks of any bleeding versus the risks of delivering your baby prematurely. At 36 weeks, delivering the baby may be the safest option.
Most women with placenta previa require a C-section, because a vaginal delivery can cause severe bleeding if the placenta blocks even part of the cervix. This situation can threaten the lives of the mother and baby.
When the placenta covers part of the cervix during pregnancy, a doctor may recommend treatment options including:
- Bed rest.
- Reducing physical activities.
- Refraining from sex, use of tampons and douching.
- A hospital stay for monitoring the health of mother and baby.
- Blood transfusions.
- Medications to delay labor until at least 36 weeks.
- Steroid shots to promote development of the baby’s lungs.
- An emergency C-section when heavy bleeding cannot otherwise be brought under control.
If you or your child have been harmed by a case of placenta previa, our experienced attorneys can help you determine if you are entitled to assistance with medical expenses and other compensation. For a free personal consultation, contact Davis Levin Livingston at (866) 806-4349 for immediate assistance.