Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta, a pregnancy organ that brings oxygen and nutrients to your baby in the womb, starts to separate from the wall of your uterus. Women with high blood pressure in pregnancy are at higher risk for this serious complication.

It typically happens late in pregnancy (after 20 weeks) or during labor. If not identified early, it can cause serious problems, since the baby may not get enough oxygen and the mother can lose a lot of blood.


Contact your healthcare provider (or head to the hospital) immediately if you experience these possible signs of placenta abruption:

  • vaginal bleeding (late in pregnancy)
  • pain in your abdomen
  • back pain
  • labor pains (contractions) that do not relax
  • finding blood in the fluid when your water breaks
  • feeling faint
  • not feeling your baby move as much as before


Nothing can stop a placental abruption or reattach your placenta. You may be able to have a vaginal delivery at this point, depending on how far along you are in pregnancy (and how healthy your baby is). Or you may need a C-section, especially if you have a lot of bleeding or you or your baby are in immediate danger.

If you lose a lot of blood, you may also need a blood transfusion.

Always call your regular prenatal healthcare provider about any bleeding that occurs while you are pregnant. It may be minor and not serious. Or it may be more severe and need emergency medical treatment.

See also ...

High blood pressure in pregnancy

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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