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Placenta Previa

Placenta previa is a condition effecting roughly 1/200 pregnancies. Normally the placenta attaches to the top or sides of the uterus. However, when the placenta either partially or totally covers the cervix (the entry/exit point to the uterus) bleeding can result.

What causes placenta previa? How do I know if I have it?

The cause of placenta previa is currently unknown. However, you may be more likely to have it if you*:

  • have had a baby
  • have a history of placenta previa
  • are pregnant with multiples
  • have scars on your uterus
  • are over 35
  • are not white
  • smoke
  • use cocaine

You may or may not experience bleeding or contractions (the two main symptoms). Your doctor or midwife can diagnose placenta previa through ultrasound which may be done either as a routine part of your care or to ascertain the cause of bleeding.

There are three types of previa, which differ in the degree to which the placenta covers the cervix.

Complete The placenta completely covers the cervix
Partial A portion of the cervix is covered
Marginal The placenta extends to the edge of the cervix

Are there any special considerations I should take?

Placenta previa is a medical condition and, as such, any questions should be directed to your medical provider. They may advise you to abstain from strenuous activities or sex. Your provider may limit or eliminate the number of vaginal exams you receive. This may decrease the risk or exacerbation of bleeding. It is not uncommon for your provider to prescribe some form of bed rest.

Placenta previa can be serious. For that reason, if you experience heavy bleeding, call your provider and head to the emergency room immediately.

What treatment options do I have? How will this effect delivery?

There is currently no treatment for placenta previa. As the uterus grows during pregnancy the placenta may be pulled farther away from the cervix resulting in a partial or complete resolution. It is important to note that as your pregnancy goes on it becomes less likely for this condition to resolve, if it hasn’t already. Your situation is also less likely to resolve the more your placenta is covering the cervix.

placenta previa

The goal if you have placenta previa is to get to as close to term as possible. To achieve this, your medical provider may recommend bed rest. Vaginal delivery may be possible if your previa has resolved. However, if this does not happen, provider will most likely recommend a cesarean delivery. If delivery before 37 weeks becomes necessary, you will likely be given corticosteriods to help mature your baby’s lungs.

Even with a cesarean delivery you have choices to make which can make the experience feel more personal and less clinical. Our doulas offer birth planning sessions and birth support which can be especially helpful to families in this situation.


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Resources/Additional Reading

*Mayo Clinic
American Pregnancy
What is Placenta Previa and What are the Symptoms?
Placenta Previa


This blog is for informational purposes only. It does not take the place of consultation with your healthcare provider.