The placenta is a sac within the uterus where a baby develops during pregnancy. The umbilical cord is attached from the baby to the placenta to transport blood and oxygen to the baby from the mother. In an uncomplicated pregnancy, the placenta remains attached to the wall of the uterus until after the baby is born. Sometimes, the placenta will start pulling away from the uterus before labor. This condition is known as placental abruption. If a placental abruption is not diagnosed or treated properly, it can lead to severe blood loss in the mother and a lack of vital oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
Treatment for a placental abruption will depend on the severity of the separation and the baby’s gestational age. If the abruption is small and the baby is under 34 weeks gestation, delivery will be delayed as long as possible if both mother and baby are stable and doing well. If the baby is older than 34 weeks or if the abruption is large, an emergency C-section would be performed to prevent the mother from hemorrhaging and the baby from being deprived of blood and nutrients. If a placental abruption is not treated appropriately, it could cause a catastrophic brain injury to the baby, cerebral palsy or fetal death in addition to shock or death to the mother.