The placenta, an organ attached to the mother’s womb while an infant is in utero, has one of the most important functions during pregnancy. It not only supplies nutrients to the baby, but it transfers both oxygen and blood. If there are placental birth injuries during pregnancy, the consequences can be life-threatening, especially if not diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Types of Placental Injuries
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta becomes separated from the inner wall of the uterus, typically after 20 weeks gestation. Placental abruption can happen from a variety of reasons, including previous pregnancies that had placental problems, maternal age and infections, smoking during pregnancy, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. In some cases, the cause is unknown, but women with the risk factors of placental abruption should be monitored carefully. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to a host of long-term and life-threatening medical conditions including cerebral palsy (CP), cognitive disorders, premature birth, and a heightened risk of the infant dying.
Although it’s a rare condition affecting less than 10% of all pregnancies, placenta previa is a dangerous condition that can lead to asphyxia, low birth weight, heart abnormalities, SP, seizures, stillbirth, and more. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta moves towards the bottom of the womb, covering the cervix either marginally, partially, or fully. Bed rest and medications are advised for the women who experience partial or marginal placenta previa, but it will greatly depend upon on how severe the symptoms. For instance, excessive vaginal bleeding is one the most common symptoms, and if doctors cannot get the bleeding under control, they may schedule a C-section immediately.
Other treatment options include:
- Vitamin K injections to help promote blood clotting, which in turn can reduce severe bleeding
- Steroid injections to strengthen the infant’s lungs
- Blood transfusions
- Medications to help stop labor, if applicable
If the placenta is fully covering the cervix, a scheduled C-section almost always follows. Physicians try to wait until at least the 36th week of pregnancy before delivery, yet if the infant or mother’s life is in danger, they may start delivery earlier.
Placental insufficiency, also known as utero-placental insufficiency, is marked by problems with blood flow to the placenta during pregnancy. Consequently, the placenta is unable to delivery the needed nutrients and oxygen to the infant. There are several causes and risk factors that can contribute to developing placental insufficiency, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, improper maternal weight gain, smoking, maternal blood disorders, maternal infections, and more. Placenta previa is more severe if it develops early in pregnancy.
If left untreated, placental insufficiency may lead to infant neurological impairment, CP, seizures, small size and weight, and cognitive disabilities.
Treatment typically consists of bed rest, getting high blood pressure under control, patient education, and in some cases, working with a high-risk maternal fetal specialist. Other forms of treatment may include:
- Low dose aspirin
- Fetal monitoring
- No use of narcotics and/or anesthesia during labor
Failure to Treat Placental Problems
As mentioned earlier, treatment must start as soon as possible. If a physician fails to detect and treat these issues in time, life-altering health issues may follow. In addition to the aforementioned risks to infants, mothers are also at risk of infection, hemorrhaging, shock, and death. It’s extremely important to keep prenatal appointments throughout your pregnancy, and if you begin bleeding at any point, make sure to inform your doctor immediately.