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Low lying placenta (placenta praevia)

What is a low lying placenta?

When you are pregnant you have a new organ inside your body called a placenta. This is attached to your baby’s navel (belly button) and gives your baby its blood and oxygen. When your baby is born the placenta also comes out and then it is usually called the after-birth.

When your placenta is inside you, in most cases it won’t be near your birth canal. But for one woman in every 200 it is low down. We usually find this out at your 20 week scan.

The technical term for a low lying placenta is placenta praevia.

What do we do about it?

First, we usually wait to see if the placenta will move out of the way by itself. We will check its position at your 32-week scan and maybe at your 36-week scan.

In about 1 case out of 10, the placenta does not move enough. This means you will need to have an operation to deliver your baby called a caesarean section.

How will this affect me and my baby?

Some women with a low lying placenta get sudden painless bleeding. If you get bleeding, please call Labour Ward Triage at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and you will be asked to attend immediately.

We may advise you to stay in hospital if you have any bleeding in the second half of your pregnancy. This may be necessary until the birth of your baby. We suggest you think about what you would do if this happens—for example, how any children you already have would be cared for. If you don’t get any bleeding you may be able to stay at home, but this can depend on the type of placenta praevia you have.

Serious complications are rare. If you come into hospital immediately you have any bleeding, we can manage the bleeding safely. If there is a lot of bleeding we may offer you a blood transfusion or discuss with you the possibility of delivering your baby early.

Please remember that any bleeding you get is not from your baby.

Your care

If you have a placenta praevia we will talk to you about how to manage the rest of your pregnancy and giving birth. You will see your obstetrician—the doctor who is an expert professional in childbirth.

How can I help myself?

You cannot do anything to help the placenta move to a better position. But you can do a lot to stay healthy in pregnancy. Because of the risk of bleeding, it is good to eat foods high in iron to keep your blood healthy. We recommend you eat foods like:

  • dried fruits (apricots, prunes, raisins)
  • beans
  • egg (yolk)
  • red meat (but not liver)
  • dark leafy greens (spinach, kale)

You can also look at this website for more information on foods to eat: iron


Useful Contact Number

Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Labour Ward Triage. 01296 316103