What Does it Mean to Have Placenta Previa?
There is nothing more exciting than seeing those tiny blue lines appear on your pregnancy test, especially when you have been trying to get pregnant for a very long time. In the midst of all the excitement and anticipation, it is easy to overlook all the things that can go wrong. This is exactly what happened when I found out I was expecting my firstborn. We came to the office to confirm the pregnancy at 3 months, and I had received a Pap smear by a careless doctor. I started to bleed heavily, and was rushed to have a sonogram.
What is Placenta Previa?
My (new) doctor diagnosed me with placenta previa, which is a fairly common diagnosis when the placenta is covering part or the entire cervix. She explained that I would need to take “pelvic rest,” and wouldn’t be able to do anything that would cause me to exert myself, no baths or swimming, no sex, no working out, pretty much nothing that would cause any further pressure to my cervix and cause the bleeding I was experiencing. She explained that if, as my uterus grew and extended, the margin of the placenta did not move away from my cervix, that I would need a C-section delivery.
A placenta can be low lying near the cervix; a marginal placenta previa, covering a portion of the cervix; or placenta previa, covering the opening of the cervix. As the uterus grows and extends throughout pregnancy, a low-lying placenta will often shift away from the cervix. Early ultrasounds aren’t specific enough to tell for sure, especially if it’s unclear whether the placenta is only marginally covering of the placenta. Generally, you’ll have a series of ultrasounds as you’re further in your pregnancy to get a better idea. Vaginal birth is contraindicated with placenta previa since, as the cervix thins and opens, it would cause the placenta to abrupt from the uterine wall resulting in bleeding and other complications.
What it’s Like to Have Placenta Previa
This diagnosis was a huge weight over me the rest of my pregnancy. I was in constant fear that I would begin bleeding at any time. That the bleeding would get worse and require an emergency delivery, or that I would deliver too prematurely and lose my sweet baby.
From 12 to 27 weeks I lived in fear that my baby would die if the bleeding could not be controlled. It affected my job as I was a kindergarten teacher at the time, but was told I had to rest as much as possible even through the day. Each time I had to use the bathroom I was afraid that I would see blood, and frequently I did. It was a very stressful time for my husband and me.
The stress of it all affected our marriage as well. Not only because we could no longer be intimate, but also the fear and the unknown put a huge stressor on our relationship. Even though placenta previa is fairly common and affects about 1 in every 200 women, it is often overlooked at first, and downplayed by friends and family. My husband’s job was also affected as we had many more doctors’ appointments to check on baby and he tried to be at every one of them, thus taking much more time off and causing financial disrupt.
Labor and Delivery with Placenta Previa
I ended up delivering a month early because my placenta was malfunctioning. I was in the hospital for 4 days before being induced to receive shots to mature my baby’s lungs. My daughter was born at only 3 pounds, and spent 9 days in the NICU! One of the side effects of this condition is heavy bleeding during delivery. While most women with placenta previa will have a Cesarean section, I was able to deliver vaginally, but began hemorrhaging right after delivery. It was controlled quickly, and I recovered completely.
I wish that placenta previa would be taken more seriously, because it can be very dangerous. It was a very scary time from beginning to end, just not knowing what would happen and what the outcome would be.
Advice for Those with Placenta Previa
I would say to any mama experiencing placenta previa to just stay positive and hope and pray for the best possible outcome. We were very blessed that our daughter was born without further complications, but that is not the case for everyone. Having this condition can also affect future pregnancies and just having placenta previa makes a woman more likely to experience it again. Also, age plays a part as women age 35 and older are more likely to experience this condition, as well as women that are carrying twins or multiples. In the best case scenarios the condition lessens and shifts thus allowing for a normal, healthy delivery.
Communicate with your health care provider about your options, and best of luck to you, mamas!