Placenta previa is a medical condition where the placenta of a pregnant woman blocks the cervical opening. It can lead to severe bleeding during delivery and pregnancy. When a woman has placenta previa and goes into labor, the blood vessels connecting the uterus to the placenta can tear as the cervix opens. This leads to severe bleeding, which puts the mother and baby at risk. Mothers with this condition are at a higher risk of premature delivery, and almost all of them have a C-section to prevent severe bleeding during labor.

Types of Placenta Previa

Your outcomes during delivery and pregnancy are dependent on your type of placenta previa.

  • Marginal Previa is also known as a low-lying placenta. This is where the placenta gets close to the cervical opening but does not cover it. It may resolve on its own before delivery.
  • Complete Previa. This is where the placenta entire covers the opening of the cervix.

What are the Risk Factors of Placenta Previa?

The actual cause of placenta previa is not certain, but you are at a higher risk if you:

  • Are 35 years or older
  • Use cocaine
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Had in vitro fertilization because of infertility
  • Had a previous C-section
  • Are pregnant with several babies
  • Have been previously pregnant
  • Had placenta previa in another pregnancy
  • Had surgery on internal reproductive organs

Symptoms of Placenta Previa

The most common symptom of this medical condition is bright red vaginal bleeding, typically without pain. This normally occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. Another sign of placenta previa is bleeding during pre-labor contractions, and medical exams or sex may also trigger bleeding. For some pregnant women, bleeding only occurs during labor. Often, bleeding will occur without any clear occurrence of an event.

What to Do About Placenta Previa

If your placenta previa does not need immediate treatment, you may be advised to avoid the following:

  • Vaginal examinations or vaginal penetration
  • Having an orgasm during sex
  • Moderate or strenuous exercise
  • Standing longer than four hours
  • Lifting over 20 pounds

All the activities above can cause contractions that may lead to bleeding.

Treatment for Placenta Previa

There is no available cure for placenta previa. Treatment objectives aim to limit bleeding from trying and get you closer to your due date. You may be given medicine to deter premature labor and corticosteroid shots to quicken the development of your baby’s lungs. Your doctor will likely then schedule a C-section when your baby is safe for delivery. However, if the bleeding is uncontrollable, you’ll undergo an emergency C-section, even if the baby is premature.

The treatment will depend on:

  • You and your baby’s health
  • Your nearness to your due date
  • The baby’s and placenta’s position
  • The amount of bleeding. If it’s heavy, you may need to be hospitalized and get a blood transfusion. If you have light bleeding, you may be asked to avoid exercise and sex.

Schedule an Appointment

To know more about placenta previa and its risk factors and management, schedule an appointment with Dr. Alex Tepper, MD, FACOG. Contact us online or call us at (212) 828-0900 to visit our New York City office for your first appointment.


Whether you are a new or returning patient, Dr. Tepper can assess your concerns and discuss your options to find the most comfortable and convenient care for you. To get started, call our office to set up an appointment.