High Risk Pregnancies - Placenta Accreta

What is Placenta Accreta?

The placenta is the organ that provides nutrients and support to the fetus during pregnancy. Typically, after birth, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and is delivered after the baby. However, if the placenta is attached too deeply to the uterus, then it’s not able to be delivered naturally. This is known as placenta accreta and can cause severe life-threatening blood loss as well as other health problems for the mother and baby if not treated properly.

Placenta Accreta, Increta or Percreta

All three conditions occur when the placenta attaches too deeply to the uterus and are referred to as a morbidly adherent placenta. The difference between the three conditions depends on the severity of the attachment of the placenta to the uterine wall.

Placenta accreta: Though the placenta is attached too deeply to the uterine wall, it has not penetrated the uterine muscle. This is the most common morbid adherent placenta condition in pregnancy and accounts for more than 70% of all cases.

Placenta increta: The placenta attaches deeper into the uterine wall then in accreta though it doesn’t penetrate completely through the uterine wall.

Placenta percreta: The placenta has completely penetrated the entire uterine wall and can even attach itself to other organs, such as the bladder.

Who’s at risk for Placenta Accreta?

Placenta accreta is more likely to occur in women who:

  • Have had previous surgery on the uterus, which may have damaged or weakened the uterus, including cesarean sections, removal of uterine fibroids or uterine artery embolization
  • Have been pregnant before
  • Are more than 35 years old
  • Have placenta previa

How is Placenta Accreta Diagnosed:

Ultrasound is the most common way that placenta accreta can be diagnosed. Diagnosis can be made in the first trimester, but it is more common to find it in the second or third trimester. You may need several ultrasounds to assess for placenta accreta if your provider feels you are at increased risk. In some cases, your provider may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to assess you further.

Placenta Accreta Symptoms:

Often there are no signs or symptoms of placenta accreta. Sometimes, there’s bright red vaginal bleeding during the third trimester which could potentially be a sign that something is wrong with the placenta.

If you bleed during any stage of your pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider immediately.

Placenta Accreta Treatment:

If diagnosed early, the baby will be delivered via cesarean section. Sometimes after delivery, a hysterectomy will be performed to remove all or some of the uterus.

Depending on the severity of the accreta, a cesarean section is performed either when the pregnancy is full-term or earlier in the pregnancy if the risks for the baby and mother are considered too high. Your healthcare provider will make the ultimate determination.

If placenta accreta is not treated properly, it can result in severe health problems and even death for the baby or the mother or possibly both. For this reason, delivery at a high-level maternal center with extensive expertise in comprehensive care for placenta accreta is important for your health. Specialists at our Level IV maternal and neonatal center stand ready to provide this highest level of care for you and your baby.

We Offer Comprehensive Care for Placenta Accreta

University Health System and UT Health San Antonio maternal-fetal medicine specialists are highly skilled and have extensive experience treating morbidly adherent placenta conditions. We offer a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach that achieves the best possible results for maternal and neonatal conditions.

Our multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialists
  • Gynecologic Oncology
  • Obstetric Anesthesia
  • Trauma Surgery and Critical Care specialists
  • Neonatology
  • Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine
  • Urology
  • Radiology and Interventional Radiology
  • Acute and Critical Care Nursing
  • Specialized nurses and Support Staff

Our experienced staff will make sure that you receive compassionate, personalized, family-centered care for a healthy pregnancy and optimal outcome for you and your baby.