Placental abruption is most likely to occur in the last trimester of pregnancy, especially in the last few weeks before birth. Classic signs and symptoms of placental abruption include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Uterine tenderness
  • Rapid uterine contractions, often coming one right after another

Abdominal pain and back pain often begin suddenly. The amount of vaginal bleeding can vary greatly, and doesn't necessarily correspond to how much of the placenta has separated from the inner wall of the uterus. It's even possible to have a severe placental abruption and no visible bleeding, if the blood becomes trapped inside the uterus by the placenta.

In some cases, placental abruption develops slowly. If this happens, you might notice light, intermittent vaginal bleeding. Your baby might not grow as quickly as expected, and you might have low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios) or other complications.

When to see a doctor

Seek emergency care if you experience any classic signs or symptoms of placental abruption, including:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe back pain
  • Rapid uterine contractions
Dec. 13, 2014

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