The Risk Of Placenta Previa Following An Abortion: What You Need To Know

Posted on: 11 January 2016

It's seldom an easy decision for a woman to have an abortion, but it's important to know about the risks this medical procedure sometimes presents. Placenta previa is a problem that can affect pregnant women, and if you have had an abortion, the risk of this complication increases. Learn what causes placenta previa, and find out why an abortion can increase the risk of this dangerous condition.

What is placenta previa?

The placenta gives an unborn baby the vital oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow during pregnancy. The placenta normally attaches to the top or side of the uterus wall, but during placenta previa, this vital organ attaches to the lower part of the uterus, covering the cervix.

The placenta is often low in the womb in the early stages of a pregnancy, but the organ will normally move to the top as the baby develops, allowing the cervix to open for delivery by the third trimester. With placenta previa, the organ continues to cover part or all of the cervix.

The condition can cause severe bleeding that is potentially life threatening to a pregnant woman. In turn, this heavy bleeding may cause a pre-term birth that is dangerous for your baby.

What causes the condition?

Doctors estimate that placenta previa affects around 1 in 200 pregnancies. The condition can affect anyone, but some women are at higher risk than others. For example, women who have previously been through several pregnancies are at higher risk, especially mothers of twins or triplets.

Anything that can scar the lining of the uterus can also increase the risk of placenta previa. For example, C-section surgery sometimes causes scarring that can increase the risk of the condition.

Studies also show that induced abortion increases the risk of placenta previa. One study showed that induced abortion increased the risk threefold. Another study found that women with an increased frequency of abortions were also at higher risk of placenta previa.

What is the difference between placenta previa and placental abruption?

These conditions can often cause similar symptoms. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta comes away from the uterine wall, but, like placenta previa, the main symptom is normally heavy vaginal bleeding. To diagnose placental abruption, a doctor will often carry out a vaginal examination, but this action could worsen the symptoms of placenta previa.

As such, to diagnose placenta previa, a doctor should only carry out an ultrasound. It's dangerous for a doctor to place a finger or any other object inside the vagina for women with placenta previa.

How do doctors deal with placenta previa?

Health care providers carefully assess all pregnant women to determine the risk of placenta previa. Placenta previa can kill you or your baby, so your obstetrician will want to know about anything that could increase the risk of this condition. As such, you must tell him or her if you have had an abortion.

There are various treatment options available to women with placenta previa. Your medical team cannot do anything to shift the placenta, so all efforts will focus on helping your baby develop normally for as long as possible. If your obstetrician diagnoses the condition you may need to:

  • Take things easy and give up any unnecessary physical activity.
  • Avoid sex, douching and tampons until the baby is born.
  • Stay in the hospital for close monitoring and care.

In some cases, you may also need extra medical care. For example, some women with placenta previa need blood transfusions. Your doctor may also prescribe drugs that will lower the risk of an early labour. Ideally, these medicines will stop you going into labour until the baby is at least 36 weeks old.

The placenta cannot carry out its job if it is in the wrong place, and the baby may develop problems with its respiratory system. As such, your doctor may also recommend steroid shots, which will help the baby's lungs develop.

Placenta previa is a dangerous condition that is more likely after a woman has an abortion. Talk to your obstetrician for more information and abortion advice.