Placental abruption describes the condition in which the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall. The only cure for placental abruption is immediate delivery of the baby. However, this may not be the best solution, especially if your due date is more than a few weeks away.

To help you decide on the best time and method of delivery, your doctor will:

  • Assess how your body is handling the blood loss. When your body loses a lot of blood, your heart may have difficulty pumping enough blood to your tissues to keep them supplied with oxygen, and your blood volume may get so low that you no longer produce enough urine. This can cause your kidneys to shut down. To monitor the effects of the blood loss, your doctor takes your blood pressure and pulse-and perhaps uses a pulse oximeter to continuously monitor the oxygen in your blood. (If he uses a pulse oximeter, you’ll have a clip attached to your finger that leads to a machine that registers the amount of oxygen in your blood.) He may also put a tube (catheter) into your bladder to measure how much urine is being produced.
  • Replace the lost blood. Your doctor will insert a needle into a vein in your arm to replenish your fluids. He will also take blood samples to check your blood count and to measure how well your blood is able to clot. If necessary, your doctor will administer medication or a blood transfusion.
  • Perform an ultrasound to make sure your baby is healthy. If so, you will be hooked up to a fetal heart monitor so that your doctor can closely watch your baby’s heartbeat.

As long as your body is able to handle the blood loss, and your baby’s heartbeat is strong, you can wait to deliver. If you are near your due date your doctor may suggest medications to induce labor. If your baby is not doing well, you will need to deliver immediately-usually by cesarean section (C-section). But, if you have disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)-a disruption in the blood’s ability to clot-your doctor will postpone the C-section until your blood clotting improves. Most likely, you will receive a transfusion of clotting factors to help improve the body’s ability to clot just prior to the C-section.

You can prevent placental abruption by following the same rules that ensure a healthy pregnancy. You can:

  • control high blood pressure;
  • protect your abdomen from direct trauma; and
  • avoid smoking and the use of street drugs.