As a mother of three children, I felt that I was an old pro. When I became pregnant with my fourth child, I thought I knew what to expect. My previous births had been normal and relatively uneventful. At the beginning of my eighth month into the pregnancy, I suddenly found myself in labor. My mother and husband both questioned whether I was certain I was actually in labor. I assured them both that I knew what labor felt like. I was absolutely certain the baby was coming early.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was examined and told I was experiencing false labor. I told them they were wrong. After consulting my obstetrician the nurse returned and informed me that they would keep me for a little while for observation. I was experiencing severe back pain so I asked if I could walk a bit since walking helped to relieve the discomfort. I was granted permission to walk down the hall to the patient lounge and so my husband and I took a stroll. On the way back from the lounge I felt a rush of warm fluid. I assumed my water broke. I assumed wrong. Before I knew what was happening, I was told I had a condition called placenta abruptio, that I was hemorrhaging and that they had to do a cesarean section to remove the baby.

In pregnancy the placenta attaches to the inner wall of the uterus. It is the placenta that supplies the fetus with nutrients and oxygen. In the condition of placenta abruptio the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall. The condition can be life threatening for both mother and child. Major blood loss can occur and the child may have to be delivered immediately. Placenta abruptio usually occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy although it can happen at any time. In most cases the condition can’t be detected and there may be no signs to indicate anything out of the ordinary during the pregnancy.

Placenta abruptio is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Once the placenta separates it can’t be repaired although medication may be prescribed to stop labor depending upon the amount of placental separation. A physician should be consulted immediately upon experiencing vaginal bleeding, uterine pain or any indication of early labor. If placenta abruptio is suspected, the patient is admitted to the hospital for observation.

The cause of this condition is not known although some women are considered high risk and may be more susceptible to placenta abruptio than others. They include women over thirty, women who have had multiple births as well as those who smoke. This is not written in stone however. Any woman at any time throughout her pregnancy could experience placenta abruptio.

My tiny daughter may have been born early but she was healthy and fine. I had to have blood transfusions due to the hemorrhaging; it took a lot out of me and I remained in the hospital for several days to recuperate. I learned to expect the unexpected. Just because previous births were normal and uncomplicated doesn’t mean that each one will be the same. When you think you know it all, you find out how little you really do know. Each pregnancy is different; each birth is different. Stay informed for the health of your child and yourself.