Skip to main content
Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo
Summer Flowers In This Section

Placental Abruption

The placenta carries oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus. Without the placenta, the fetus cannot live.

Placental abruption is partial or complete separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. Signs of placental abruption are bleeding and contractions, or abdominal pain.

The fetus can survive even when half of the placenta is separated from the uterus. Sometimes, when the abruption occurs early, the fetus does not grow well.

Causes of placental abruption

  • Usually unknown
  • Use of cigarettes or illicit drugs
  • Injuries to the abdomen from car accidents and falls
  • A history of abruption in a prior pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes

Impact on pregnancy

  • Minor abruption may irritate the uterus and cause labor before the due date.
    • Fetuses usually tolerate minor abruption well.
    • Vaginal delivery and induced labor are usually safe with minor abruption.
  • Massive abruption may result in:
    • Early labor and delivery
    • Fetal intolerance of labor, requiring a cesarean section.
    • Stillbirth
    • Massive blood loss that may threaten the life of the mother
    • Inability of the blood to clot, and bleeding from other areas.

Birth and beyond

  • Vaginal bleeding is almost always from the mother, not the baby. The baby will still be checked for anemia.
  • You may need emergency cesarean delivery, blood transfusions, or intensive care.
  • About 10-17 percent of women with an abruption will have it again in a future pregnancy.
Contact Us