What are Placenta Previa Symptoms?

Mary McMahon

Placenta previa symptoms are symptoms indicative of placenta previa, a pregnancy complication where the placenta is too close to or overlies the cervix. This can pose serious problems during labor and delivery. The key symptom is bleeding after the 20th week of pregnancy. Women who notice bleeding or spotting during pregnancy should contact their doctors or midwives to receive evaluation and treatment, as bleeding can be associated with other pregnancy complications and is a cause for concern.

Placenta previa can pose serious problems during labor and delivery.
Placenta previa can pose serious problems during labor and delivery.

In patients with placenta previa, the placenta does not implant in the right spot. It grows over or very near the cervix. In women with this pregnancy complication, special care needs to be taken during labor and delivery to identify and address fetal distress. In some cases, women may need to deliver prematurely via cesarean section to protect the health of the fetus.

Bed rest may be prescribed if placenta previa symptoms are present.
Bed rest may be prescribed if placenta previa symptoms are present.

Bleeding in the late second and early third trimester is one of the most common placenta previa symptoms. Usually, the blood is bright red and it can be light to severe. In typical cases, the bleeding resolves on its own and then recurs, and may be intermittent. Women may not experience pain in some cases, while other women may have painful uterine contractions, back aches, and abdominal pain. There is a concern in some cases that a woman may go into premature labor and if placenta previa symptoms are identified, steps may be taken such as encouraging a woman to take bed rest for safety.

Placenta previa may lead to premature labor.
Placenta previa may lead to premature labor.

During prenatal exams, placenta previa symptoms like a baby in the breech position and unusually large uterine measurements may also be observed. Ultrasound examinations can reveal that the placenta is out of place and provide more information about the severity of the placenta previa. Ultrasound examinations are usually recommended if placenta previa symptoms like bleeding are noted for the purpose of correcting diagnosing the condition and gathering information about the health of the fetus and the precise position of the placenta.

Women with placenta previa may be able to deliver vaginally, depending on the position of the placenta and the way the fetus is lying. In other cases, a cesarean section may be recommended for delivery. Concerns with placenta previa include hemorrhage during labor and delivery, as well as risks to the health of the baby. An obstetrician who specializes in high risk pregnancies is usually consulted to provide appropriate care for the patient and the fetus.

An ultrasound can be done to confirm placenta previa.
An ultrasound can be done to confirm placenta previa.

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Discussion Comments


@Scrbblechick -- Wow. That's scary. Really scary. I've heard of placenta previa, but never have known anyone who had it.

I'll bet your co-worker had to get new seats in her car because of all the blood. That's really an unreal sort of situation. I don't know what I would have done. What if they hadn't had a cell phone? They're annoying sometimes, but in this case, they literally saved a life!

We think of pregnancy and childbirth in the US as almost a ho-hum sort of thing, but this just proves the risks are still there. Maybe we just have more resources to deal with them.


My co-worker's daughter had placenta previa and she nearly died! She had been spotting and called her OB, who told her to come into the office, even though it was a Saturday. Her mother was taking her to the doctor, when the bleeding just escalated into hemorrhaging.

Thank goodness for cell phone. Her mom called the doctor, who said he would meet them at the ER, that he would have everything ready when they arrived.

They got to the hospital and took the daughter straight in. Her heart stopped twice because of low blood volume. She nearly bled to death before they were able to get her stabilized.

The baby made it. They got her stable and waited 48 hours (with her in the hospital, of course) and then did a C-section. It was a close, close call.

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