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Many of those with whom we’ve worked here at Donovan and O’Conner have had to live through the pain and suffering of losing a baby. Such a loss can be particularly traumatic when it occurs before a baby is even born. Pregnancy is a time when both mothers and their unborn children are most at risk for serious injuries. One such injury that often produces tragic results is a placental abruption. In this post, we’ll discuss what a placental abruption is and the effect it can have on an unborn baby.

The term “placental abruption” describes the premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. When this occurs, the unborn baby can be deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients, increasing the chances of fetal demise or developmental problems. According to PregMed.org, this type of injury occurs in 6.2 of every 1000 pregnancies. Oftentimes, a minor abruption can be managed with minimal to risk to both mom and baby. Major abruptions, however, can easily lead to a baby’s death.

One of the major causes of a placental abruption is sudden trauma, such as that occurs during a fall or car accident. Signs and symptoms of an abruption can be abdominal or back pain, nausea and vomiting, or rapid uterine contractions. In some instances, however, a pregnant mother may be completely asymptomatic. This is particularly troubling because the moment a major abruption occurs, immediate intervention is needed in order to save the baby.

EMS and medical personnel should be trained to be aware for the potential of an abruption in expectant mothers following traumatic accidents. Should such an event occur late in the pregnancy, delivering the baby via emergency C-section could save his or her life.

For more information on pregnancy complications, visit our Pregnancy Errors page.