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Placenta Accreta  

The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy and provides vital nutrients and oxygen to the baby. During a normal pregnancy, a woman’s placenta naturally detaches itself from the uterine wall following childbirth. Placenta accreta occurs when the placenta fixes itself deeply into the uterine wall, causing it to partially or completely stay in place during childbirth. This can lead to potentially life-threatening pregnancy complications for the mother, including heavy vaginal bleeding (hemorrhage). Placenta accreta may also increase the risk of going into labor early.  

Placenta Accreta Causes   

Many physicians and researchers believe placenta accreta is linked to existing abnormalities in the lining of the uterus, which may result from uterine surgery, and too much alpha-fetoprotein, a protein produced by the baby.  

While the exact cause of placenta accreta is somewhat unclear, multiple factors that can increase a woman’s chances of experiencing this condition have been identified. They include: 

  • Being pregnant after age 35  
  • A history of uterine surgery, including a previous C-section 
  • A placenta that sits in the lower part of the uterus (placenta previa)
  • Previous pregnancies 

Placenta Accreta Symptoms   

Women with placenta accreta typically don’t have noticeable symptoms during pregnancy. Some women may experience vaginal bleeding in the third trimester, between weeks 27 and 40. If you experience vaginal bleeding toward the end of your pregnancy, seek medical care right away. 

Placenta Accreta Diagnosis   

Placenta accreta is often diagnosed before delivery during an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Women who have one or more risk factors for placenta accreta are carefully monitored for this condition during pregnancy.  

Placenta Accreta Treatments    

Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute provides attentive and personalized care to mothers and babies with pregnancy complications such as placenta accreta. A woman who is diagnosed with placenta accreta during pregnancy will be scheduled for a C-section (caesarian section)—a procedure to deliver the baby through incisions in the uterus and abdomen. The surgeon may attempt to keep the uterus intact and preserve fertility, although this usually isn’t possible or advisable. A hysterectomy to remove the uterus is often performed following childbirth to minimize the risk of serious complications.