Placental Abruption: Causes, Complications and effects on your baby

By Jason Brady

Pregnant women having an ultrasound

Placental abruption is when the placenta starts to come away from the wall of the womb before the baby has been safely born. This is a very serious condition and a medical emergency because it means that the vital support system for the baby is failing.

What causes placental abruption?

Placental abruption can have an obvious cause such as trauma to the mother through a road traffic accident or a fall, however, there are also other related factors such as pre-eclampsia and foetal growth restriction, which can lead to a placental abruption.

There are also a number of other known risk factors, of which medical professionals should factor in where these are clearly known and if necessary, provide additional monitoring. A failure to do so may result in a claim for placental abruption compensation where appropriate. Risk factors include:

  • Having previously had a placental abruption
  • Having an intrauterine infection
  • Having very high blood pressure
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Taking drugs such as cocaine during pregnancy
  • Specialist birth injury solicitors
  • No win, no fee claims
  • Independently recognised as experts

What does placental abruption mean for my baby?

Ultimately the impact of placental abruption on your baby depends on the severity. If only a small part of the placenta has detached from the womb, and if you are under 34 weeks gestation it is likely that you will be closely monitored to ensure that the baby continues to develop and grow and to identify any early signs of labour. In these instances, if a medical professional fails to carry out additional monitoring, such as additional ultrasound scans or midwife appointments, and where harm then occurs to either mother or baby, a placental abruption claim may arise.

However, if the abruption is more severe, it is likely that you may be losing a lot of blood. Medical professionals may deem it necessary to carry out an emergency caesarean to protect both mother and baby. This may mean that your baby needs additional monitoring and care depending on whether they were born prematurely and whether any injury or harm arose as a result of the placental abruption.

Unfortunately, in some instances, placental abruption can be fatal for both mother and/or baby. However, this is rare.

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What complications can arise from a placental abruption?

Depending on the severity and extent of placental abruption, both mother and baby may suffer complications.

Complications to the baby

  • Being born prematurely
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Brain injury from a lack of oxygen

Complications to the mother due to placental abruption:

  • Blood loss/haemorrhage
  • Complications arising from emergency surgery