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Placenta accreta

Placenta accreta is a serious pregnancy condition that occurs when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall.

The placenta is a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and removes waste products from your baby's blood. It attaches to the wall of your uterus, and your baby's umbilical cord arises from it.

Typically, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall after childbirth. With placenta accreta, part or all of the placenta remains strongly attached. This can cause vaginal bleeding during the third trimester of pregnancy and severe blood loss after delivery.

It's also possible for the placenta to invade the muscles of the uterus (placenta increta) or grow through the uterine wall (placenta percreta).

If extensive placenta accreta is suspected during pregnancy, you'll likely need a C-section delivery followed by the surgical removal of your uterus (hysterectomy).

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Placenta accreta often causes no symptoms during pregnancy — although vaginal bleeding during the third trimester is possible.

If you experience vaginal bleeding during your third trimester, contact your health care provider right away. If the bleeding is severe, seek emergency care.

Placenta accreta is thought to be related to abnormalities in the lining of the uterus, typically due to scarring after a C-section or other uterine surgery. This might allow the placenta to grow too deeply into the uterine wall. Sometimes, however, placenta accreta occurs without a history of uterine surgery.

Many factors can increase the risk of placenta accreta, including:

  • Previous uterine surgery. If you've had a C-section or other uterine surgery, you're at increased risk of placenta accreta. The risk of placenta accreta increases with the number of uterine surgeries.
  • Placenta position. If your placenta partially or totally covers your cervix (placenta previa) or sits in the lower portion of your uterus, you're at increased risk of placenta accreta.
  • Maternal age. Placenta accreta is more common in women older than 35.
  • Previous childbirth. The risk of placenta accreta increases each time you give birth.
  • Uterine conditions. The risk of placenta accreta is higher if you have abnormalities or scarring in the tissue that lines your uterus (endometrium). Noncancerous uterine growths that bulge into the uterine cavity (submucosal uterine fibroids) also increase the risk.

Placenta accreta can cause serious complications, including:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding. Placenta accreta poses a major risk of severe vaginal bleeding (hemorrhage) after delivery. The bleeding can cause a life-threatening condition that prevents your blood from clotting normally (disseminated intravascular coagulopathy), as well as lung failure (adult respiratory distress syndrome) and kidney failure.
  • Premature birth. If you have placenta accreta, you might begin labor early. If placenta accreta causes bleeding during your pregnancy, you might need to deliver your baby early.
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