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Vasa Previa

Vasa Previa is a rare prenatal condition that affects around 1 in every 2,500 pregnancies. This condition can be serious and can cause complications during labor and delivery and even lead to a stillbirth if unmanaged.

Women who are at an increased risk of developing these conditions include those who have had a previous cesarean section, women who have multiple gestation pregnancies, and those with an abnormally shaped uterus.

Our experienced OB/GYNs at Maiden Lane Medical in New York City, offer expert diagnosis, pregnancy management, and cesarean deliveries to protect you and your baby. Call our office today or schedule a consultation online if you’re looking for expert obstetric care! 

A pregnant woman who is worried that her vaginal bleeding could be a symptom of vasa previa.

What Is Vasa Previa?

Vasa Previa is a rare and serious childbirth condition that occurs when umbilical blood vessels pass through the membranes directly over the cervix. In some cases, Vasa Previa can result in stillbirth or severe brain injury in the baby.  

What Causes Vasa Previa?

Vasa Previa occurs when two blood vessels, either umbilical or placental blood vessels, that are normally covered by fetal membranes rupture. The umbilical cord can be compressed during labor, leading to a decrease in oxygen supply to the baby and vaginal bleeding for the mother. 

What Is Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa is a pregnancy complication in which the placenta partially or completely covers the opening of the cervix. During childbirth, this can cause fetal blood to be released from the uterus as the baby passes through.

Placenta previa can lead to severe fetal bleeding and other complications, such as premature delivery. Placenta Previa is a prenatal condition that affects about 1 in 200 pregnancies. 

What Causes Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa is a pregnancy complication caused by the placenta being located too close to or completely covering the cervix—the opening of the uterus. This can cause fetal blood vessels to be stretched and torn if the baby passes through the birth canal, resulting in severe fetal bleeding. 

There are several factors that can increase the risk of placenta previa, including advanced maternal age, carrying multiple babies, and a history of previous cesarean sections or uterine surgery. Women who have had placenta previa before may be at increased risk for it in subsequent pregnancies as well. 

A relieved pregnant woman getting an ultrasound to rule out placenta previa.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Vasa Previa and Placenta Previa?

The most common symptom of both vasa previa and placenta previa is painless vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. This can be a sign of a serious complication, so it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately if painless vaginal bleeding occurs. 

Other vasa privia symptoms and placenta previa symptoms may include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Contractions
  • Decreased fetal movement

How Are Placenta Previa and Vasa Previa Diagnosed?

Vasa previa and placenta previa can both be diagnosed during pregnancy. The most common method of prenatal diagnosis is through transvaginal ultrasound

In diagnosing vasa previa, the sonographer will look for velamentous cord insertion or extra vessels crossing the fetal membranes. Although vasa previa can usually be identified on an ultrasound during the second trimester, it is more difficult to diagnose in earlier pregnancies. Therefore, a diagnostic test called Doppler flow mapping may also be used to confirm a vasa previa diagnosis in first-trimester pregnancies.

Placenta previa is usually detected when a pregnant woman experiences painless vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks gestation. A high-resolution transvaginal ultrasound with color Doppler is then used to confirm the diagnosis. The sonographer will look for evidence of placental invasion into the uterine wall and an abnormal position of the umbilical cord.

It is vital that vasa previa and placenta previa are diagnosed early in order to provide appropriate care for both mother and baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. 

How Are Vasa Previa and Placenta Previa Treated?

If either vasa previa or placenta previa is diagnosed, you may need to avoid any strenuous activity for the remaining weeks of your pregnancy, and your doctor may suggest bed rest or even hospitalization for the third trimester in some cases. 

Your OB/GYN may also prescribe corticosteroids to boost lung development in your baby. In the case of a vasa previa or placenta previa diagnosis, a cesarean delivery is usually recommended as the safest route for childbirth. 

After the cesarean delivery, women who have had vasa previa or placenta previa will need to take extra care when it comes to birth control methods in order to prevent any future pregnancies from having these complications.  

Get the Expert Obstetric Care You Deserve

Our experienced OB/GYNs at Maiden Lane Medical in Manhattan, NY offer expert diagnosis, pregnancy management, and cesarean deliveries to protect you and your baby. Contact our office today or schedule a consultation online if you’re looking for expert obstetric care!

Medically Reviewed By

Jill-Ann Swenson, MD, FACOG
Board Certified OB/GYN

Expert Medical Services

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