Placental Abruption

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

How to Say It: 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
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The exact cause is not always known. 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, such as from losing amniotic fluid or from the delivery of a first twin

Risk Factors

This health problem is more common in older mothers.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

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


In the early stages, there may not be symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may have:

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


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

You may have:


Treatment depends on the how much the placenta has separated and the health of the mother and fetus. Choices are:


The risk of this problem can be lowered by avoiding drugs and not smoking during pregnancy.


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)


Placental abruption. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 19, 2020.
Placental abruption. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed October 19, 2020.
Placenta previa. Stanford Children's Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 19, 2020.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Antepartum hemorrhage. RCOG 2011 May.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG