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Placental Abruption

(Premature Separation of Placenta; Ablatio Placentae; Abruptio Placentae)

Pronounced: pluh-SEN-tul ab-RUP-shun



The placenta is an organ that nourishes the baby in the womb. Placental abruption is when it parts from the womb before a baby is born.

Placental Abruption

Placental Abruption

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Causes    TOP

Sometimes the cause it not clear. Other times it may be due to:

  • Rupture of an artery or vein in the uterus which causes bleeding between the placenta and the uterine wall
  • Problems with how the placenta forms
  • Low oxygen levels in the uterus
  • Injury to the belly from an accident or a fall
  • Sudden decrease in the volume of the uterus, from losing amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin

Risk Factors    TOP

This health problem is more common in older mothers.

Factors that may raise your risk are:

  • Trauma
  • Prior abruption
  • Multiple prior deliveries
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Drug misuse, especially cocaine
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Prior cesarean section (C-section)

Symptoms    TOP

In the early stages, you may not have symptoms. If you do, you may have:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Belly pain
  • Back pain
  • Rapid contractions

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam will also be done.

You may have:


Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. You may have:

IV Treatments

Fluids may be given by IV to replace lost fluids. Blood transfusions may also be given to replace lost blood supply.

You and your fetus will be carefully monitored for signs of distress or shock.

Emergency Cesarean Delivery

If you or your fetus are in danger, an emergency cesarean section will be done. If you and your fetus are at low risk of problems and your fetus is full-term, then you may deliver vaginally.


Prevention    TOP

Do not take drugs or smoke during pregnancy.

If you have this health problem before, your doctor will watch you closely if you become pregnant again.


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Pregnancy Association


The Canadian Women's Health Network

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)


Bleeding in pregnancy, placenta previa, placental abruption. Stanford Children's Health website. Available at:
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Accessed August 8, 2018.

Neilson JP. Interventions for treating placental abruption. Cochrane Database for Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD003247.

Placental abruption. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116309/Placental-abruption#Prevention-and-Screening. Updated November 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Placental abruption: Abruptio placentae. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Tikkanen M. Etiology, clinical manifestations, and prediction of placental abruption. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2010;89(6):732-740.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 8/8/2018

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