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How is placental abruption diagnosed?

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Placental abruption is primarily diagnosed on the clinical findings of vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, uterine tenderness, loss of uterine contractions, and fetal distress. The diagnosis of placental abruption can only truly be confirmed after birth, when the placenta can be examined and the presence of a clot or tissue damage.

Doctors usually diagnose placental abruption based on the symptoms you are experiencing and by ruling out any other sources of those symptoms. Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam and check the level of pain you feel when the abdomen is pressed. You may also have your blood drawn (blood count) and have an ultrasound. Blood tests may examine your level of blood coagulation, which can affect placental abruption. Not everyone with this condition has a firm diagnosis before delivery. In some cases, when the placenta is studied post-delivery, doctors will be able to detect a placental blood clot, a tell-tale sign of the condition.

Placental abruption is not all that common. It happens in about 1 out 150 births. However, your risk for placental abruption can increase if you have high blood pressure, blood vessel disorders like vasculitis, blood clotting problems, diabetes, abuse alcohol or drugs, experience abdominal injury, or are older in age.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.