What is Placenta Previa?

In pediatrics, placenta previa is rare when the placenta attaches to the lower part of the uterus near or over the cervical opening. This can cause serious complications for both mother and baby during delivery.

If left untreated, it can lead to preterm delivery and potential risks for both mother and baby.

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What Causes Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa in pediatrics is caused by an abnormally low-lying placenta that covers or partially covers the opening of the cervix.

This can happen due to a variety of factors, such as:

  • Abnormal implantation of the placenta
  • Scarring from a previous surgery
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancies

Placenta previa requires careful pregnancy monitoring.

Signs Symptoms

Placenta previa can cause a variety of signs and symptoms in infants, some of which may be subtle. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps or pain that come and go
  • Mild to heavy vaginal bleeding, usually occurring without labor contractions
  • Premature labor contractions
  • A decrease in fetal movement
  • An abnormal or nonexistent fetal heart rate
  • Preterm birth of the baby
  • Shock due to massive bleeding, which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly
  • Uterine tenderness

Contact your doctor immediately if you are pregnant and experience any of these symptoms.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for placenta previa include:

  • Women over the age of 35 are at higher risk
  • Previous cesarean delivery or multiple pregnancies (carrying more than one baby)
  • Uterine abnormalities, including a scarred uterus from previous surgery, such as a cesarean section
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Previous placenta previa
  • Having a history of Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
  • Having a low-lying placenta at the start of your pregnancy
  • Women who have gestational diabetes may be at greater risk of placenta previa
  • Any medical condition affecting the uterus, such as fibroids or polyps.
  • Being overweight or obese before becoming pregnant.
  • Women with more than one prior pregnancy may be at greater risk of placenta previa.
  • Placenta previa is also more common in women with a history of preterm labor or premature birth.
  • Having babies close together (less than 18 months apart) increases the risk of placenta previa.
  • Women who have previously had a cesarean delivery are more likely to develop placenta previa.
  • Previous trauma or surgery to the uterus increases the risk of placenta previa


The treatment for placenta previa depends on the severity of the condition.

For mild cases: Bed rest may be recommended to reduce the risk of complications. Suppose the placenta covers a small portion of the cervix, and bleeding is minimal. In that case, your doctor may allow you to continue your pregnancy until around week 36 or 37 before scheduling a C-section.

For severe cases: When the placenta covers a large portion of the cervix, and heavy bleeding is present, your doctor may advise you to have an early C-section delivery. This offers the best chance for a safe outcome for both mother and baby.


Although there is no sure way to prevent placenta previa, the following steps may reduce the risk:

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid certain activities that may put pressure on your abdomen
  • Get regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy

What Happens if Placenta Previa is Left Untreated?

Placenta previa can cause serious complications for both mother and baby if left untreated.

The most common complication is severe bleeding during labor or delivery, which can be life-threatening.

Other risks include:

  • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (placental abruption)
  • Respiratory distress syndrome in the newborn
  • Delivery complications such as the ruptured uterus
  • Increased risk of stillbirth or infant death if placenta previa remains untreated

CHRISTUS Children's - The Fetal Care Center

When the unexpected fetal anomaly occurs, the Fetal Care Center at CHRISTUS Children's connects pediatric specialists to pregnant women and their families, regardless of where they plan to deliver their baby.

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