Each day for an expectant woman is precious. However, there are many myths and stories about pregnancy and as a result people are often scared of one of the most wonderful periods in their lives. We all anticipate our visits to the doctors hoping to hear that everything is fine and dream about seeing our baby moving or even sucking their thumb.
Actually, sometimes joy and fear merge into a troubling feeling of anxiety; anxiety that something can happen. Of course, in the mind of an expectant woman that something is always painted in negative and extreme colors. And that’s exactly what happened to me when I saw the words “Placenta previa” written for the first time in my life.
There are different conditions during pregnancy and placenta previa is one of the complications that can cause unnecessary worries to a family. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta is placed too low in the womb, covering the cervix, with potential risks of heavy bleeding and preterm labor.
Although there are some restrictions, such as bed and pelvic rest, in order to minimize the potential risks, stress is really unnecessary. Why? Because the placenta moves as the womb stretches and can attach itself even to the top of the uterus, eliminating all the fears that a mother could possibly have.
Even for a woman who's been newly diagnosed with placenta previa during the last months of her pregnancy, worrying is still not needed. With some rest and mutual trust between a woman and her doctor, an expectant mom can deliver a beautiful baby.
So let’s see how to enjoy our pregnancy at the fullest and… the safest.
When it’s time to meet your baby, statistics show that 75% of women with placenta previa in the last trimester have a C-section in order to avoid heavy bleeding that can be life threatening. As stated above, medicines to prevent early labor and help pregnancy continue to at least 36 weeks can be given. In case of heavy bleeding, steroid shots to help the baby's lungs mature can be given and an emergency C-section can be performed.
However, some women with placenta previa (marginal or low-lying previa) can give birth vaginally.
No matter the way of delivery, don’t forget that the majority of women with placenta previa deliver healthy babies without any complications.
However, there are complications that you should be informed about, but don’t be scared. And remember not to diagnose yourself because each case is individual. I, for instance, was reading about placenta previa ignoring all the positive outcomes and only looking for articles that will prove my fears that something can go wrong. Why? Emotional masochism is a possible answer.
Heavy bleeding can be life threatening to the mother and the baby, but many cases can be treated effectively in advance. Don't forget that blood transfusions can be performed and specific medicines if your blood type is Rh-negative can be given, all in order to deal with severe bleeding.
In rare cases placenta previa can be related to placenta accrete, a condition when the placenta attaches too deep in the uterine wall and the muscles, which might lead to surgical removal of the uterus. Here again - no need for panicking, because early interventions can be performed in order to help the mother.
As the placenta feeds the baby, it affects not only the mom, but her baby. Heavy bleeding can be life threatening for the fragile baby, so as stated above - an early C-section can be required. Stay calm and trust your practitioner. Doctors will make sure that you’ll receive steroid shots in case of a premature labor, because this will stimulate the baby's lungs and they are one of the major organs for the baby to function independently.
In case of preterm labor, don't forget that your sweet preemie can be healthy and strong.
Each case is individual, but don’t forget that the majority of women with placenta previa have healthy babies with perfectly normal physical, emotional and behavioral indicators; healthy babies that need only love.
The placenta is one of the organs in the human body that is not often discussed or valued by future parents, but is extremely important for the new life in our wombs. The placenta is all to the fetus - it functions as lungs, kidneys and a liver. It delivers nutrients, blood, oxygen and hormones. A fascinating fact is that 500 ml of blood circulates through the placenta per minute, which is the same amount of blood that flows through the brain of an adult.
Its importance had been worshiped in many ancient cultures. Till the end of the 19th century the placenta was left attached to the baby for several days in some countries in Asia. In countries in Africa the placenta was buried as a sign of gratitude. In many places it’s viewed as the root of the tree of life.
The placenta is the organ that connects the mother with her baby. It starts its formation in the first weeks of impregnation. Interestingly, the developed placenta is round and weighs around 400-500 grams. But don’t worry about that: you lose these grams straight after birth.
Usually the placenta is formed in the lower part of the uterus, so it's normal to be placed low in early pregnancy. With time, as the pregnancy continues, the placenta changes its initial position and moves near the top of uterus, attaching itself to the upper walls of the womb.
By the third trimester the placenta should be near the top, clearing the space around the cervix and preparing the body for delivery. In other words, the placenta can correct itself and only a small percentage of cases can develop into placenta previa.
However, sometimes the placenta stays low in the uterus even in the late stages of pregnancy. This condition is known as placenta previa and it occurs in 1 out of 200 pregnancies.
Before we start panicking, let’s learn more about it and when it can be a problem, because mommies, things can still go as smooth as silk. The love you have for your baby will erase all the worries and fears you've ever had.
There are four types of placenta previa, each one with different requirements for treatment and different effects on delivery:
Is there anything in common between these four types of placenta previa? Yes - mommy, you can have a healthy baby when you know about your specific type of condition, have in mind some restrictions and trust your doctor.
When I heard of placenta previa, my first thought was “What have I done?”
Instead of blaming yourself, have in mind that the placenta grows around the embryo and that the embryo can implant itself anywhere in the uterus. So let’s put it this way: we are not ‘life’ engineers to plan or cause that; in other words you can’t influence this, it’s not your fault.
Actually, the causes are not well known and the only risk factors that have been documented are: previous C-sections and surgeries (dilation and curettage), pregnant with twins or more, being 35 or older, and smoking. Well, smoking has always been to blame for something, so that’s not too surprising.
Other risk factors are: an unusual position of the baby, previous miscarriages, large placenta and abnormally shaped uterus, or in vitro fertilization procedures. A curious fact is that statistics show that placenta previa is more common among Asian women.
Whatever causes this condition, placenta previa can be seen on a regular ultrasound (abdominal or transvaginal). When you are diagnosed with placenta previa early in your pregnancy, before 20 weeks, don’t panic, but be patient. By the third trimester the placenta can correct its position and attach itself to the upper part of your womb.
It's amazing that the placenta moves toward the richer blood supply, which is exactly in the upper part of the uterus. This happens simply because the baby doesn’t want to stay hungry, and nature knows its way to the richer nutrient supply in the womb.
At the same time, when the placenta moves, it clears the way to the cervix, preparing the womb for vaginal delivery. Which means the chances of having a cesarean drop and mom can plan for a normal delivery if she wants to. This is the best case scenario for a woman diagnosed with placenta previa.
If you hear that you have placenta previa, don’t panic. If you are diagnosed early in your pregnancy, don't forget that it's common for the placenta to be placed low in the uterus in the beginning. Have in mind that the placenta can move toward the upper part of your uterus as the womb grows, which will eliminate all the possible complications.
However, if by the third trimester your placenta hasn't corrected itself and it still covers your cervix, your final diagnosis might be placenta previa. But there’s still no need to panic. Early treatments and a planned C-section can help you give birth to a healthy baby.
The main thing is to stay positive and avoid any stress that you or the others can create around you. Stay informed and talk to people that have the same condition. When you are informed and know when to call your doctor (for example, if you notice vaginal bleeding), there’s nothing to worry about. The little one doesn’t need a diagnosis, but love.
However, if your placenta doesn’t move during your second trimester, you’ll be finally diagnosed with placenta previa, which is present in up to 1 in 200 cases, according to the March of Dimes foundation.
But don’t worry: it’s not your unlucky lottery ticket! There might be only some restrictions for you, but being careful applies to most pregnancies.
However, there are some symptoms you shouldn't ignore. Bleeding can occur. Usually it is painless and bright red and it's more common for the second half of pregnancy. Cramps are also present. If bleeding occurs before your due date, you might be watched in hospital. Sometimes bleeding stops and begins again days or even weeks later.
Also, you might be recommended a C-section because the placenta will be blocking the cervix and a natural delivery can cause heavy bleeding, which can be life threatening to the mother and the baby. If you have uncontrollable bleeding before 34 weeks, you might be given corticosteroids, which accelerate the baby’s lung development, as the baby might be delivered prematurely. Sometimes medicines to help pregnancy continue to at least 36 weeks are given. Also blood transfusions and shots of a specific medicine in case your blood type is Rh-negative are common. Just trust your doctor!
Stress-free environment is the best thing for a mom-to-be and her baby, especially when you have placenta previa. That’s why, if you have no or little bleeding, you might be put on bed rest at home (if there's heavy bleeding that can't be controlled, you can be put on hospital bed rest). Have in mind that bed rest means Bed Rest, so avoid standing, sitting or cleaning.
Now it’s a good time to stop being a workaholic and enjoy your time. Pamper your soul and body and have a spa day at home. Relax and sleep, you’ll need this rest for when the little one is born. Read your favorite books, listen to some relaxing music or watch your favorite comedy shows. Decorate your house (don't move furniture!) and don’t think about any complications, but the beauty inside your belly.
If bleeding still occurs, call your doctor immediately.
Not only your work life, but your sex life can change too. Although making love during pregnancy is safe and a very relaxing way to bond with your partner, having placenta previa makes things a little bit trickier. Your doctor might recommend avoiding sex because that can trigger bleeding.
That applies to any other pleasure activities. So don’t insert anything into your vagina (toys or tampons).
Here comes something I’ve always been conflicted by. Can we orgasm by stimulating any other parts of our body? We know that orgasms can cause contractions and that they have their benefits at the same time.
Sex educator Lou Paget, author of Hot Mamas, says that orgasms release stress, keep you in a good mood and help your relationship stay alive. What's more, orgasms during pregnancy are more powerful. However, information about that particular question in case of placenta previa can be contradicting.
That's why, next time don’t be shy and ask your doctor, so you two will discuss your individual case.
You may wonder about other physical activities as well. Of course, don’t lift anything heavy – with or without placenta previa.
If there's no bleeding, there are low intensity exercises that you can do: a slow pace walking routine would be great, starting with 30 minutes a day, as experts suggest. Why don't you go for a walk in the park, combining some fresh air and exercising into a great day in the company of a friend?
Another wonderful way to relax and keep fit is some yoga or Pilates. It can provide more strength in your arms, legs and back. This will prepare your body for birth and all the changes that will take place after. Also it can help you get relief from any pains you might have in your body. Just avoid any twisting in the abdominal area or heavy squats.
A good alternative is using chairs to support your pelvic floor. Last but not least, yoga can help you focus on your breathing, which is so needed during labor.
Remember to follow your own pace and stop if you feel any pain. Contact your doctor in case bleeding occurs.
There’s no specific menu that applies only to placenta previa. Don’t go crazy on caffeine, sushi or raw eggs. Try to find fresh fruit and vegetables and cook at home. Make sure that you wash things and cook well before eating. Basically, the better and healthier the the meal plan, the better off the pregnancy, baby and mom will be.
However, don’t forget that experts say that 80% healthy food and 20% unhealthy (pizza, burgers and chips) is a good deal for a normal diet, as everyone needs to indulge in their favorite preferences. Just check 'best before' or 'use-by' dates. If you have any questions speak to your healthcare provider.
It’s a very sensitive topic regarding drinking and smoking. Avoid smoking, but don’t feel guilty if you have a glass of wine or a beer once a week. Actually, beer can simulate the hormone prolactin, and that helps moms have more milk.
It's true, having placenta previa can be stressful and can affect your work and sex life. I admit that this can be frustrating, especially if you are used to being active and social all the time. However, try to learn to love the extra time that some bed rest can give you: draw, do your nails, read and spend more time with your family. Besides, this is your time, your time before your baby starts getting all the attention.
Rest more, avoid sex, forget about heavy exercises, eat healthy and stay positive. In other words, follow the restrictions discussed above, but just don’t think about yourself as someone ill. Because you’re more than alive - you are living for two (or more).
Enjoy your pregnancy because this experience is unique and no diagnosis can stop you from being happy, safe and loved.