What are signs or symptoms of placental problems?

Consult your health care provider during pregnancy if you have:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe back pain
  • Rapid uterine contractions
  • A fall, car accident or other trauma to your abdomen

What can I do to reduce my risk of placental problems?

Most placental problems can't be directly prevented. However, you can take steps to promote a healthy pregnancy. For example:

  • Visit your health care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy
  • Work with your health care provider to manage any health conditions, such as high blood pressure
  • Don't smoke or use illegal drugs
  • Talk with your doctor before deciding to pursue an elective C-section

If you've had a placental problem during a previous pregnancy and are planning another pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about ways to reduce the risk of experiencing the condition again. Tell your health care provider if you've had surgery on your uterus in the past. Expect your health care provider to carefully monitor your condition throughout the pregnancy.

How is the placenta delivered?

If you deliver your baby vaginally, you'll also deliver the placenta vaginally — during what's known as the third stage of labor. After you give birth, you'll continue to have mild contractions. Your health care provider might massage your lower abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract and expel the placenta. You might be asked to push one more time to deliver the placenta, which usually comes out with a small gush of blood. The placenta is typically delivered in about five minutes. In some cases, it might take up to 30 minutes. If you have a C-section, your health care provider will remove the placenta from your uterus during the procedure.

Your health care provider will examine the placenta to make sure it's intact. Any remaining fragments must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If you're interested, ask to see the placenta. In some cultures, families bury the placenta in a special place, such as their backyards. Some women cook and eat the placenta, a practice known as human placentophagy.

If you have questions about the placenta or placental problems during pregnancy, talk to your health care provider. He or she can help you better understand the placenta's role.

March 13, 2015 See more In-depth