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Placenta accreta

6-minute read

If you have any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, see your doctor. If the bleeding and pain is bad, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Placenta accreta is a serious but rare pregnancy complication. It can cause harmful bleeding.

If you have placenta accreta, you will need special care when you have your baby.

What is placenta accreta?

Placenta accreta develops when the placenta implants too deeply into the wall of the uterus (womb). Sometimes it can grow through the muscle wall and outside the uterus.

After the birth, the placenta doesn’t come away as normal. It stays firmly attached to the uterus. This can cause severe bleeding and can be life threatening.

Placenta accreta can also cause premature birth.

Image showing the placenta has developed too deeply into the wall of the uterus.
Illustration of normal placenta position and placenta accreta during pregnancy.

How is placenta accreta diagnosed?

The condition may be picked up by your doctor during your pregnancy through antenatal ultrasound. But in other cases, it may not be found until the baby is born.

If a diagnosis is made antenatally, your doctor will discuss a caesarean birth and the risks.

Complications are more likely if placenta accreta is found at delivery.

It’s important to attend your routine antennal appointments throughout pregnancy. Often complications can be identified during these appointments.

What is the cause of placenta accreta?

Although placenta accreta is rare, it has become more common in recent years. The chance of having placenta accreta increases with the number of caesareans you have.

Any surgery that leaves scarring on the lining of the uterus can raise your chances of developing placenta accreta.

The risk also increases if:

What are the symptoms of placenta accreta?

Often placenta accreta doesn’t cause any symptoms during pregnancy. The most likely symptom is bleeding in the third trimester.

Placenta accreta causes severe blood loss after delivery.

If you have any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, see your doctor. If the bleeding and pain is bad, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What are the risks to you and your baby?

Placenta accreta can be life threatening. It causes severe blood loss after delivery. It can prevent blood from clotting and lead to lung and kidney failure.

Placenta accreta can cause bleeding and your baby may need to be delivered early (prematurely).

How is placenta accreta treated?

If your doctor suspects you have placenta accreta during your pregnancy, they may order:

They will monitor you and your baby. They will also arrange for you to give birth in a major hospital with the appropriate medical support. You will need to stay close to the hospital during your third trimester.

You will need to have a caesarean. Your obstetrician will probably suggest that this happens before your due date to avoid you going into labour early.

Your obstetrician will discuss the safest treatment options with you before the surgery. They will try to avoid major blood loss and infection. Your options may include a blood transfusion and hysterectomy (removal of your uterus).

If you wish to have more children, your obstetrician may consider leaving the placenta inside the uterus. This will depend on your individual circumstances.

Although this means avoiding a hysterectomy, it can increase the risk of postpartum haemorrhage and developing a serious infection.

You will need to have many check-ups and tests in the months after having your baby. There is a high chance of needing a hysterectomy later if there are complications.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Recovering from placenta accreta

You will need to spend some time in hospital to recover from the surgery. You will still be able to cuddle and bond with your newborn baby.

It’s common for women who go through birth trauma to feel many emotions. These might include:

It’s important you speak with your medical team so they can help you and your family through your recovery.

You can also get help and support from:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

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Need more information?

Retained placenta

A retained placenta is when part or all of the placenta is not delivered after your baby is born. It can lead to serious infection or blood loss.

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Placenta praevia

Placenta praevia is a condition where the placenta lies low and may cover the cervix, blocking the baby's exit during birth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

About the placenta

The placenta develops inside the uterus (womb) during pregnancy. It gives your baby nutrients and oxygen. Find out more about the placenta here.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Causes of Preterm Labour - Miracle Babies

There are many causes of preterm birth

Read more on Miracle Babies Foundation website

Postpartum haemorrhage

Postpartum haemorrhage is when you bleed more than normal after giving birth. It can be very serious and requires medical attention right away.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Caesarean Section

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Premature baby

Preterm labour is when you go in to labour before your pregnancy reaches 37 weeks. Here's what to expect when you have your baby prematurely.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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