The placenta is the organ that supplies food and oxygen to the baby during pregnancy. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta detaches from the wall of the womb (uterus) before delivery. The most common symptoms are vaginal bleeding and painful contractions. Blood and oxygen supply to the baby may also be adversely affected, leading to fetal distress. The cause is unknown, but high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, cocaine or alcohol use, injury to the mother, and having multiple pregnancies increase the risk for the condition. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and can range from bed rest to emergency C-section.
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Review Date 4/19/2022
Updated by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.