As you probably know, the placenta is one of the most important organs in pregnancy, which is why we need to be aware of problems such as placenta accreta.
And what is it exactly? Pay attention to the following lines to learn all there is to know about it.
What is placenta accreta?
Placenta accreta, also called placenta accrete or placenta acreta, is a serious condition in which the blood vessels of the placenta and part of the placenta itself grows in the uterine wall in a way that is considered too deep. It may not sound like much, but it is a pregnancy complication of high risk, since, as a consequence, there could be severe blood loss during childbirth.
As you probably know, right after delivering the baby, the new mother has to deliver the placenta, which detaches from the uterine wall after its purpose is completed. If you suffer from placenta accreta, part of the placenta will remain attached to the uterus, and thus the haemorrhage or blood loss.
There are three types of placenta accreta:
- Placenta accreta: The placenta is firmly and deeply attached to the uterine wall. It happens around 75% of the times.
- Placenta increta: The placenta attaches so deep to the uterine wall that it enters the muscles of the uterus. It happens 15% of the times.
- Placenta percreta: Besides attaching too deeply, the placenta actually grows into the uterine wall: the blood vessels grow in it and could even invade other organs, like the bladder. It’s detected 10% of the times.
What are the symptoms of placenta accreta?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms that could tell you that you could be suffering from placenta accreta, except, maybe, for some bleeding during the third trimester. However, the bleeding may not even happen, and the only way to detect it is through an ultrasound, although sometimes it is necessary to do an MRI as well. This is why it is very important that you don’t miss any of the necessary pregnancy scans.
Why does it happen? Should I be worried?
There are no specific causes for placenta accreta, but there are a few factors that would put you in a greater risk. Experts believe it can be due to an abnormality of the uterine wall. The risk factors are the following:
- You have undergone uterine surgery in the past, which may have left you a scar that may cause this uncommon attachment of the placenta.
- You have been diagnosed with placenta previa.
- You have undergone a C-section in the past, which will have also left a scar in the uterus – And if you have undergone more than one C-section, you will be at a higher risk.
- You are pregnant with twins or multiples
- You are older than 35 years old.
Placenta accreta is not all that common: it is reported in one of 530 cases a year, so you will probably be fine. If you have any of the risk factors, tell your doctor so they can keep an eye on it. However, sometimes it is not detected until delivery.
What are the consequences of placenta accreta? Is there anything I can do?
If you have an undetected placenta accreta, you could suffer a severe haemorrhage during delivery. The heavy bleeding could prevent you from clotting properly, and you would probably need a blood transfusion. It can also speed up labour and end up in a premature birth.
There is no placenta accreta treatment, unfortunately. If you’re diagnosed with it on time, doctors will probably recommend absolute rest so they can ensure you can carry your baby until your due date, or at least as long as possible.
You will have to undergo a C-section to avoid the haemorrhage, and, unfortunately, in most of the cases it is also necessary to perform a hysterectomy, to avoid the bleeding. A hysterectomy consists in the removal of the uterus, which will mean that you won’t be able to get pregnant again.
But I want to have another baby in the future. Isn’t there another option?
It will depend on your particular situation. In some cases, it is possible for the uterus not to suffer too much, and the placenta can be allowed to dissolve over time. However, this won’t be the preferred option by your doctors, since this could have consequences, such as an infection, severe vaginal bleeding or even a pulmonary embolism – a consequence of a blood clot blocking one of your arteries. If you were planning on having more children, talk about it with your doctor. However, keep in mind that the hysterectomy is the safest procedure for you.
Can it be prevented?
Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do to prevent placenta accreta. Since previous C-sections and uterine scars constitute a risk factor, you can try to deliver vaginally whenever possible – but, as you know, sometimes C-sections are very necessary.
Many future mothers feel very overwhelmed when they learn that they are suffering from placenta accreta. However, don’t be scared: it’s is a serious but uncommon condition, and if you finally suffer it, try to concentrate on the beautiful baby you’re about to bring into the world, and on how happy you will be raising it.