What is Placenta Previa?

The placenta is an organ that grows specifically to facilitate this pregnancy, and is attached to the uterine wall. It provides hormones and nutrients to the baby, and is connected to the baby by the umbilical cord. As pregnancy progress, the uterus grows and stretches and this moves the placenta away from the cervix. If this does not happen, the placenta may remain near to or covering the cervix. This condition is known as placenta previa.

The exact causes of placenta previa are unknown. However, the risk of developing placenta previa is slightly greater for women:

  • aged 35 or over
  • who have experienced previous placenta previa
  • who have had previous caesarean births
  • who are carrying twins or more
  • who smoke
  • who use cocaine
  • who have suffered miscarriages in the past

How is placenta previa diagnosed?

The location of the placenta will also be noted during your 18-21 week scan. If the sonographer thinks your placenta is low-lying, you will be offered a second scan later in the pregnancy. This will typically happen at around week 32. At this second scan, around 90% of women will discover that the placenta has moved to where it should be.

If your placenta is still low lying at the second scan, you will be monitored by your healthcare provider until the birth, or until the placenta moves. You may be:

  • put on bed rest
  • put on pelvic rest (this means no sex, no orgasms and no vaginal exams)
  • admitted to hospital for the last few weeks of the pregnancy
  • Advised to take it easy (no heavy lifting or activities that may put you under unnecessary strain)

Your treatment will depend upon the severity of your condition. There are three different diagnoses:

  • Low-lying placenta – the placenta is close to, but not covering, the cervix
  • Partial placenta previa – part of the cervix is covered by the placenta
  • Total placenta previa – in this instance, the entire cervix is obstructed by the cervix

The risks associated with this condition include bleeding, reduced fetal growth and separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. Your healthcare provider will assess your risk factors and advise on the best course of treatment.

Will I be able to have a normal birth?

If the placenta is near or covering the cervix at the time of the birth, you will be unable to have a vaginal delivery. You will instead deliver by caesarean surgery. Placenta previa is a rare condition which is only present in 0.5% of births.

You should contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience vaginal bleeding.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright Β© Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.

Fiona PeacockWhat is Placenta Previa?

Comments 19

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  3. Sarah

    I have a low lying placenta and I’m having another scan at 32 weeks. My midwife & songrapher advised it will more than likely have moved up by this stage so fingers crossed xx good luck ladies xx

  4. Sara

    I had a scan at 18 weeks about and the doctor said that I have low-lying placenta, which at that time I didn’t understand what it was (and didn’t give it much thought tbh 😊 ) . Today I read this blog and now I totally understand. This is a wonderful app and im loving it.
    Now I have a scan at 34 weeks to recheck the position of the placenta. Right now I’m 30w3d. 😊

  5. Mich

    Hi everyone,

    May 26week scan shows that i have a grade 1 low lying placenta at 1.6cm from the os. My OB said its normally about 4cm. I’ll have another scan after 2 weeks at 32weeks and check if the placenta moved and if the baby is already in cephalic position, since it showed on my last scan that she’s still in breech.

    Goodluck everyone!

    Mich 😊

  6. Rachel thompson

    Hi I was diagnosed with placenta previa at my 20 week scan I am now 30 weeks and have been told I will need early admission at 36 weeks for bedrest and a cesarean section due to it being a grade 4 with complete coverage of the cervix I have another scan at 32 weeks to check and finalise plans just hoping everything works out ok I have bled and needed admission twice also now on iron but hanging in there been off work since my 20 week scan so now getting fed up and anxious of how it will all go good luck to all x

  7. Linda

    I was diagnosed with placenta previa, and I am a high risk pregnancy but so fare I saw no bleeding also I take progesterone shots once a week. My question is does the progesterone shots caused the placenta previa.

  8. Anne Marit

    I had low-lying placenta early in the pregnancy and also around week 20, but it had moved a bit by then. I experienced some bleeding early on and was quite scared since i have had two miscarriages in the past, but was calmed down when i knew why i bled, and that it wasnt dangerous. I didnt have to rest more than usual or stay away from sex unless i bled, so I mostly was affected by it with not feeling the baby move before late. But now i feel alot of activity, and on my last scan in week 29 the placenta had moved to a safe location πŸ™‚ Remember that in most cases the placenta ends up in a safe place well before birth, but its important to have it checked and to follow your doctors og midwifes orders and advice. Good luck all! πŸ™‚

  9. Jeany

    My sister’s last pregnancy was diagnosed with placenta previa, very closed to her due date. The news scared her so much. Then she had a friend who were studying hypnobirth telling her that she can try ‘hypnotizing’ her baby and her body.
    So she started talking to her baby and the placenta. The latest scan before the delivery then showed that the placenta had moved, my sister delivered her baby safely.
    Good luck to everyone.

  10. Lisa

    I’m 35weeks and 2 days found out i had placenta previa about 20 weeks into my pregnancy praying it would move but has not 4th baby and now I’m gonna have a c section with my placenta in bedded in my cervix never having a c section the closer my schedule day is the more nervous I’m getting having placenta previa is pretty uncomfortable feels like i have a bowling ball in between my legs so i just rest all day with only getting up to eat or drink and potty…..if u find out u have this as well keep high hopes and take care of yourself thank the lord my baby is in good health and doing fine best of luck to all u pregnant mommies and god blessπŸ˜‡

  11. Linda

    I was told at 18 wks by the specialist that i was at high risk for placenta previa. Two days later i had a scan at my obgyn and the tech said not to worry bc the placenta was far enough away and it would not move down (only up if it moves at all). A few weeks later i noticed some spotting, but this is #3 and i have had that before so i was not worried. 2 wks ago it started happening more frequently and then a large amount of dark red stained discharge came out all at once. Freaked me out so I called the doc. He checked and found that the placenta had pulled away slightly from the uterine wall, but there is still plenty of healthy attachment. Also cervix is 3 cm and I am only 25 wks. He just put me on pelvic rest and said no strenuous activity. We will just keep an eye on it. Trying not to worry or stress and just take care of myself. Good luck to all!

  12. Malerie

    I was diagnosed with full placenta previa and a short cervix at 21 weeks. I have been attending weekly dr appointments since the diagnosis. Last week at 28 weeks I began to bleed and have a lot of brown discharge. They kept me in the hospital for three days monitoring my cervix which has been gradually shrinking (now at 1.5 cm). During the scan the dr noticed mucus in my cervix and that I was dialated to 2. I am now 29 weeks and scared to death to even go to the bathroom. Hoping everything goes good and I at least make it to 34 weeks. The dr said I have about a 40% chance of making it full-term. Wish me luck!

  13. Angela

    On my last scan it was confirmed that I have low lying placenta so I will be having a c-section. I am 36 weeks now and it didn’t rise not even a bit. I have not have any bleeding so this is a good sign. However I will still need to deliver by c-section. Wish me luck and good luck to all your pregnancies and babies on the way!!!

  14. Laura

    Sarah that’s what I thought. I gathered it would say partially covering os or something but just covering made me assume it was total!
    I know!! It feels like forever. Still have over ten weeks til they re-check!!
    Yeah it’s a pain when your trying to plan things!
    Best of luck and I hope it moves in time for you x

  15. Laura

    Hi HJ
    Wow. Really happy for you. Such a good sign if it’s already moved and you still have 6 weeks until the next scan! That’s great.

    The way I give birth isn’t what’s bothering me but I’m very scared incase of bleeding which seems to happen to the majority of people I’ve looked at online. But I’ve has nothing yet.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you too! Good luck xx

  16. Sarah-Jayne

    Laura, the ‘os’ is the internal opening of the cervix. It sounds like your placenta is over the os at the minute. That doesn’t mean it will stay there though. It can still be out of the way by term.
    My placenta is low ‘abutting the os’ which I presume is just quite close. 25 weeks now and due rescan at 34 weeks. Feels like a long wait, especially as I’m unable to plan my home delivery until I know for sure!

  17. HJ

    Hi Laura,

    I was also told that I’m having a low-lying placenta around week 20. I’m 29 weeks pregnant now, and last week’s scan with my doc showed that the placenta has slightly moved away from the cervix, which sounds promising! I’ll be having another anomaly scan at week 32 to see how it is, so will keep my fingers crossed πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  18. Laura

    I found out last week that i have a low lying placenta. I’m booked in for a scan at 32 weeks and was just told no sex whatsoever.
    I’m not sure on the severity whether it’s partial or total but she showed me on the scan and it did look total at the time. All my notes say is ‘placenta covering os’
    Does anyone know of this means full/partial and did anyone else have this?