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Placenta Accreta Risks

Published on November 8, 2015

Placenta accreta is a potentially life-threatening medical condition that occurs during pregnancy. Instead of the placenta attaching just to the wall of the uterus, the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine lining and becomes firmly attached. Typically the placenta detaches from the uterine wall after childbirth, but with the placenta firmly attached, a multitude of problems can occur. Among them, Placenta accreta risks include severe blood loss after delivery – severe enough to claim the mother’s life.

Placenta accreta is considered a high-risk pregnancy complication. According to the Mayo Clinic, “if placenta accreta is suspected during pregnancy, you’ll likely need an early C-section delivery followed by the surgical removal of your uterus (hysterectomy).”

This is exactly what happened to Katie Sullivan. At 7 months pregnant, Katie found out she had placenta accreta. She had two previous Caesarean deliveries and was in need of a third. Once she was diagnosed, doctors told her she would need a hysterectomy to save her life, making this her last pregnancy. One week before her C-section, Katie started to bleed and was rushed to the hospital where two teams of doctors were ready and waiting. After multiple units of blood, she survived the surgery and delivered a healthy baby boy named Calin.

Fortunately Katie knew she had placenta accreta and was able to plan a safe delivery for both her and her baby accordingly. Not all are so lucky.

How Do You Know You Have Placenta Accreta?

Unfortunately there are often no signs or symptoms to indicate placenta accreta during pregnancy, although vaginal bleeding is possible during the third trimester. Often, placenta accrete is detected during a routine ultrasound.

What Causes Placenta Accreta?

It is suspected that it is related to abnormalities in the lining of the uterus, typically due to scarring after a C-section or other uterine surgery. However, placenta accreta can occur without a history of uterine surgery, as well. Many other factors can increase the risk of placenta accreta including:

Maternal age: Placenta accreta is more common in women over 35 years old.

Placenta position: If your placenta partially or totally covers your cervix (placenta previa) or sits in the lower portion of your uterus

Previous Childbirth: Each time you give birth, the risk of placenta accreta increases

It’s also possible for the placenta to invade the muscles of the uterus (called placenta increta) or grow through the uterine wall (called placenta percreta).

Other Placenta Accreta Risks 

Other placenta accreta risks include:

-Premature delivery and further complications for the child

-Bleeding during a woman’s trimester

When You Find Out You’re Pregnant 

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, schedule an appointment with your doctor, such as an obstetrician/gynecologist. It’s important that you keep regular appointments throughout your pregnancy to ensure the health of you and your baby.

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