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Placenta Previa


Overview :

The uterus is the muscular organ that contains the developing baby during pregnancy. The lowest segment of the uterus is a narrowed portion called the cervix. This cervix has an opening (the os) that leads into the vagina, or birth canal. The placenta is the organ that attaches to the wall of the uterus during pregnancy. The placenta allows nutrients and oxygen from the mother's blood circulation to pass into the developing baby (the fetus) via the umbilical cord.

During labor, the muscles of the uterus contract repeatedly. This allows the cervix to begin to grow thinner (called effacement) and more open (dilatation). Eventually, the cervix will become completely effaced and dilated, and the baby can leave the uterus and enter the birth canal. Under normal circumstances, the baby will emerge through the mother's vagina during birth.

In placenta previa, the placenta develops in an abnormal location. Normally, the placenta should develop relatively high up in the uterus, on the front or back wall. In about one in 200 births, the placenta will be located low in the uterus, partially or totally covering the os. This causes particular problems in late pregnancy, when the lower part of the uterus begins to take on a new formation in preparation for delivery. As the cervix begins to efface and dilate, the attachments of the placenta to the uterus are damaged, resulting in bleeding.




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