What is a low-lying placenta? This sounds like a huge complication in pregnancy whenever you hear it from your doctor or your family and friends during your 20-week abdominal scan. I was also surprised when I first heard this term from my gynecologist during my second pregnancy as my first pregnancy was very healthy and smooth. But actually, this is not a very big complication. You will have a smooth pregnancy though you have a low-lying placenta. It all depends on the location of your placenta from the vagina. If it is far from your cervix, you will not have any problems. There will be a complication if your placenta covers the whole cervix without letting your baby come down from the vagina during natural birth. This complication is called placenta previa. In this article, I will explain all about the placenta, its complications, how to be careful, medications, and how to have a tension-free pregnancy journey based on my own experience.
This organ plays a major role throughout pregnancy. It is like a mother to the fetus. It helps the fetus develop and grow healthily. It passes all the essential, nutrients, oxygen, and antibodies to the baby through blood. It also helps to get rid of the baby’s waste products through the mother’s blood so that the mother’s body can get rid of it through stool. This organ is formed in the uterus during your early pregnancy. And it comes off along with your baby during natural birth or c-section. It is attached to the uterine wall and is connected to the baby through the umbilical cord. It usually attaches to the top, bottom, right, left, front, or back of the uterus.
Low Lying Placenta:-
This occurs when the placenta attaches to the lower part of the uterus and is only 2 to 5 cm away from the cervix. There are two types of low-lying placenta. One is partial placenta previa and the other is complete placenta previa. Partial placenta previa occurs when the placenta attaches very close to the cervix or covers only half of the cervix wall. This is not so dangerous or cause any heavy bleeding. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta covers the whole wall of the cervix. This causes bleeding throughout pregnancy as the baby grows bigger. As the baby grows it pushes the placenta and hence it touches the vaginal wall and you start bleeding. There will be heavy bleeding in the third trimester as the baby grows and there is less space in the womb. Doctors advise complete bed rest if you have placenta previa. In most cases, the placenta may shift its position or can come far away from the cervix or the vagina as the womb expands during the second and third trimesters or as the pregnancy progresses. If the placenta doesn’t come upwards even after the 8th month, you should worry a bit. The low-lying placenta can also be posterior and anterior. Posterior low-lying placenta means your placenta is attached backside of the fetus and is very near to the cervix. Anterior low-lying placenta means your placenta is attached in front of the fetus and is near the cervix or the vagina.
When the placenta completely covers the cervix wall or the vagina, it is called placenta previa. There is no chance of normal delivery here as the baby cannot come out through the cervix as it is closed by the placenta. You will also experience heavy bleeding at the end of your pregnancy or in the 9th month of pregnancy. This happens due to the tear and rupture of the uterine wall as the baby grows and pushes the placenta downwards. Bleeding can also occur when you have sex. Doctors advise you not to have sex even when you just have a low-lying placenta. And if you have placenta previa, you should completely avoid sex as it may cause heavy bleeding. Heavy bleeding can cause preterm birth, stillbirth, baby development issues, or blood loss in pregnancy. You will be advised to take complete bedrest in your third trimester if you have placenta previa.
What not to do in Low-lying placenta and placenta previa?
- Avoid sex as much as possible. You can have sex once in a while if you only have a low-lying placenta.
- Avoid heavy weight lifting. Don’t lift your toddler, heavy water cans, furniture, etc.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Avoid traveling long distances by car, or bike.
- Avoid playing sports or jumping. You can do light walking.
- Avoid brisk walking, exercise, or running.
Causes of Low lying placenta and Placenta Previa:-
- If you had a c-section before.
- If you are older than 35 years.
- History of miscarriage.
- Abnormal shape of the uterus.
- Multiple pregnancies.
- Had In-vitro fertilization treatment to get pregnant.
There is no medical treatment to move the placenta upwards or to a normal position. It is something that gets attached to the uterus in the early pregnancy. You can avoid a few things to prevent heavy bleeding in pregnancy.
- Complete bed rest in the third trimester if you have placenta previa or if you have started bleeding heavily.
- Avoid sex, tampons, female condoms, or any other sex toys.
- Your doctor will give you certain medications to avoid early labor, vaginal bleeding, or preterm birth.
- You will be advised to stay in the hospital if you have heavy bleeding to monitor your baby’s development and your health.
- If you will have multiple scans throughout your pregnancy to check your placenta positioning.
My Personal Experience:-
During my first pregnancy, I didn’t have any major complications except for ovarian cysts. Luckily, I was able to get rid of them within a month with the help of medications and timely treatment. My second pregnancy came after a gap of four years since my first pregnancy.”I initially believed that my current pregnancy would be healthier than my first one, as I was in good health. The first few weeks went smoothly, but I began experiencing symptoms such as headaches, back pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, which I did not have during my first pregnancy. I speculated that perhaps these were signs of a baby girl, as I had a baby boy in my previous pregnancy.” These symptoms continued for 2 months and some symptoms like back pain and headaches continued throughout pregnancy.
During my 18th to 21st week of pregnancy, my doctor informed me that I had a low-lying placenta. The doctor made it sound like a serious complication and explained all the potential risks like heavy bleeding in the third trimester or during delivery and some precautions like avoiding sex, traveling, exercise, weight lifting, taking as much rest as possible, etc, I needed to take. However, she also reassured me that there was a chance that the placenta could move upwards as the pregnancy progressed, so I shouldn’t worry too much. She gave me medications that can prevent miscarriage and vaginal bleeding. She also told me that there would be multiple scans to check my placenta position throughout my pregnancy. After the doctor’s appointment, I went home and started researching more about it on Google and YouTube. While some videos made it seem like a significant issue, I also found a few articles that gave me hope that the placenta could move upwards as the baby grew.
From now on, I became very careful about my pregnancy. I took all the medications on time. I took some rest wherever possible. Avoided heavy work and work overload. But still, there is always something coming in between. I had a 3-year-old toddler at home who was on pee and potty training at that time. And life with kids is a bit busy and sometimes fussy too. Most of the time, you can enjoy with them by their actions and words. In my 4th month of pregnancy, I had to travel to my hometown by a 5-hour long journey train for some property matter. Initially, my doctor told me to avoid it but if it is compulsory, I can go with almost care. She said that the train journey is much better than the car journey as there will be a lot of bumps and speed breakers when u travel by road. I was also scared a lot to travel at this stage. So I postponed my work for 2 more weeks and traveled by train during my 5th month of pregnancy. The journey was smooth and I didn’t experience any pain or bleeding. I stayed there in my hometown for 5 days and then traveled back to my home by train. My parents also came to my home so that I could get some help with my household work and some support.
Everything was going very smoothly when suddenly my 3-year-old toddler started feeling ill all the time. He gets a fever once or twice every month along with a cold and cough. And we all know how it feels when a kid is sick. During the middle of my 5 th month of pregnancy, I got dengue. And since I had pregnancy complications doctor advised me to get admitted to the hospital for 3 days. My son and my husband also got viral fevers at the same time. I was in the hospital, my mom was with my son taking care of him and my husband was very busy taking care of me and my son at the same time. That was a very painful situation in my life. After my discharge, when I went home my son’s condition worsened. His fever was very high and he was not eating or drinking anything. He was admitted to the same hospital for 3 days. I was with him all the time. When we all were slowly recovering from this tragic incident my son fell sick again after one week of discharge. Again he was admitted to the hospital for 3 more days as he was not eating or drinking anything. His blood tests showed dengue positive. He got all the symptoms that I had during my dengue fever. He recovered after 4 days but lost so much weight and immunity during this whole process. After his recovery, I went to my parent’s home to stay. So that I can take extra care of myself and give some more time to my son. There I taught him potty training so that it would be easy for me when I was busy with my newborn baby. It took him one year to build back his immunity and weight gain. After one year, I came to know from a pediatrician that for weight gain you have to eat 2 to 3 egg whites daily and consume some amount of protein daily. Since we don’t eat non-veg every day, he told eggs are a good option as they are readily available and low on cost.
During my 8th month of pregnancy when I visited my gynecologist for a checkup, she told me that my placenta was still downwards and told me to do an MRI scan to see the exact location of the placenta. Though MRI scans are not recommended for pregnant women due to their harmful radiation, you can do it if you have any complications or to avoid any risks during labor or c-section. My MRI scan result was very shocking. It told me that I didn’t have any low-lying placenta or placenta previa and my placenta was very far away from the cervix. My doctor also didn’t understand anything. But still, she told me to be careful and a c-section is the best option. So she gave me a due date for c section and told me to come on that day with everything ready. I had a successful c-section and a baby girl was born with no heavy blood loss or any other complications. My doctor told me that my placenta was also a little bit away from the cervix. I stayed in the hospital for 2 days and came back to my home happily along with my family knowing that from now on my life will be very busy and I have to be very patient in every situation and handle everything with courage.