Placenta Previa: What Is It and What to Do?

Placenta previa is a condition that affects a small percentage of mothers-to-be. It involves the abnormal growth and positioning of the placenta, the organ that carries nutrients and oxygen to and removes waste from the fetus. Read on to learn more about this condition and the best ways to treat and manage it.

What Is Placenta Previa?

In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches itself to the side or top part of the uterus. Placenta previa is a rare condition in which the placenta lies low in the uterus and partially or completely covers the cervix. This can cause severe bleeding upon delivery or even during pregnancy. Many women who are diagnosed with placenta previa early in their pregnancy find that the condition resolves itself, especially in the case of marginal placenta previa, when the cervix is only partially covered by the placenta. However, in the case of complete placenta previa, which is when the placenta completely covers the cervix, it’s unlikely to resolve itself before birth.

placenta previa

What Are the Symptoms of Placenta Previa?

The main sign of placenta previa is painless bleeding from the vagina in the second half of the pregnancy. Call your healthcare provider if you experience any vaginal bleeding in your second or third trimester or if you experience contractions. Seek emergency medical care if bleeding is severe.

What Causes Placenta Previa?

The causes of placenta previa are not known, but some possible risk factors include if

  • you’ve had a baby

  • you’ve had surgery or another procedure that may have left a scar on your uterus, such as a cesarean section or uterine fibroid removal

  • you’ve had placenta previa before

  • you’re carrying twins, triplets, or other multiples

  • you’re older than 35

  • you smoke.

What Risks Are There With Placenta Previa?

It’s important that your healthcare provider monitors both you and your baby to reduce the risk of complications. The possible placenta previa risks are:

  • Severe bleeding. This can occur during labor, during delivery, or after delivery.

  • Preterm birth. Bleeding may be cause to undergo an emergency cesarean section, even before your baby is full term.

How Can I Find Out if I Have Placenta Previa?

If you have placenta previa, it will show up during your usual prenatal checkups or a second trimester ultrasound. To be certain or to get a more thorough diagnosis, your healthcare provider may also need to do a transvaginal ultrasound, using a wand-like device placed inside the vagina. Should your healthcare provider suspect or notice any signs of placenta previa, then he may do additional ultrasounds to determine the precise location of the placenta and assess whether it can resolve itself over the course of your pregnancy. However, if you experience any heavy bleeding during your pregnancy, see your healthcare provider or go to the hospital immediately.

What Can My Healthcare Provider Do About Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa is rare, and if you do have it, the severity of the condition also depends on factors such as your and your baby’s health; how far along your pregnancy is; the position of the placenta; and to what extent it actually covers the cervix. Your healthcare provider will monitor whether the placenta previa resolves itself, and, if it doesn’t, he will aim to get you as close to full term as possible. If you’re late into your pregnancy and you still have placenta previa, a c-section may be required. If your placenta is low lying, but doesn’t cover the cervix, you may be able to have a vaginal birth, but talk this through with your healthcare provider.


Placenta previa may cause severe bleeding that puts you and your baby at risk, which is why you may need an immediate c-section. If your baby is born early due to placenta previa, there are additional problems and risks associated with preterm birth. Your healthcare team will provide the proper support and care you need along the way.

In any case, the most important thing you need to do is take care of yourself, rest as much as possible, and avoid any activities that may trigger bleeding, like exercise. There is no need to worry about placenta previa. It’s a rare condition, and even if your healthcare provider diagnoses you with it or you show signs of placenta previa, there is a good chance it will go away by itself. If it doesn’t resolve itself, your healthcare provider can manage the condition so both you and your baby are safe and healthy.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.