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. Amid all the excitement and anticipation, it is easy to overlook all the things that can go wrong. This is precisely what happened when I found out I was expecting my firstborn. We came to the office to confirm the pregnancy at three 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. This is a fairly common diagnosis where the placenta is covering either part or the entire cervix. She explained that I would need to take “pelvic rest.” I wouldn’t be able to do anything that would cause me to exert myself. This meant no baths or swimming, no sex, and no working out. I had to refrain from doing anything that would cause any further pressure on my cervix and cause the bleeding I was experiencing. As my uterus grew and extended, if the margin of the placenta did not move away from my cervix, I would need a C-section delivery.
There are several types of placenta previa. A marginal placenta previa extends just to the edge of the cervix. A partial placenta previa covers a portion of the cervix. And complete placenta previa covers the entire opening of the cervix. As the uterus grows and extends throughout pregnancy, a low-lying placenta will often shift away from the cervix.
Generally, you’ll have a series of ultrasounds as you progress in your pregnancy to get a better idea. Vaginal birth is often not recommended for a woman with placenta previa. As the cervix thins and opens, it could cause the placenta to detach from the uterine wall. This results in bleeding and other complications.
What it’s Like to Have Placenta Previa
This diagnosis was a huge weight over me for the rest of my pregnancy. I was in constant fear that I would begin bleeding at any time. I worried 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 stressor on our relationship. Placenta previa is often overlooked even though it affects about 1 in every 200 women. Friends and family often downplay it because it is not understood. My husband took time off for our numerous doctor’s appointments, so his job was also affected.
Labor and Delivery with Placenta Previa
I ended up delivering a month early because my placenta was malfunctioning. I was in the hospital for four days to receive shots to mature my baby’s lungs before being induced. My daughter was born at only 3 pounds, and spent nine 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. However, I began hemorrhaging right after delivery. Luckily, my doctor got it under control quickly, and I recovered completely.
I wish that placenta previa would be taken more seriously because it can be very dangerous. It was a terrifying 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 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. Just having placenta previa makes a woman more likely to experience it again. Also, women age 35 and older are more likely to experience this condition. So are women that are carrying twins or multiples. In the best-case scenarios, the condition lessens and shifts, thus allowing for normal, healthy delivery.
Communicate with your health care provider about your options, and best of luck to you, mamas!