What is Placenta Previa?
Placenta previa occurs in about 1 out of every 250 pregnancies. Many times, previa is detected in the third trimester, but it's sometimes spotted at as early as 17 weeks, usually either in a routine ultrasound or because some bleeding or pain is occurring.
In this condition the placenta lies low in the uterus and may grow to partially or completely cover the opening of the uterus, the cervix.
There are two type of placenta previa – minor and major.
- Minor: Placenta is in lower uterine segment, but the lower edge does not cover the opening of the uterus.
- Major: Placenta is in lower uterine segment, and the lower edge covers the opening of the uterus.
The concern with placenta previa is that the placenta blocks the birth canal, either partially or completely. While you can have a vaginal birth with placenta previa, the placenta could be pulled from the uterine wall when the cervix dilates during labor. This could cause bleeding and potentially be harmful to you and your baby, meaning a c-section delivery may be necessary.
Many cases of placenta previa resolve themselves as the uterus grows and the placenta naturally moves upward. In more pronounced cases, the previa completely covers the cervical opening and will not move far enough up, regardless of treatment. In these cases, a caesarian section delivery is a necessary miracle.
Because of the risks, if you're planning a home birth, placenta previa will need to be resolved before your midwife will give the go ahead to birth at home.
Chinese Medicine's Approach to Placenta Previa
Debra Betts (2006) notes in her book, Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth,
Although it has been estimated that as many as 30% of placentas on ultrasound are positioned low at 20 weeks gestation, less than 1% require further monitoring by 32 weeks, with only a small proportion of these requiring any medical intervention.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views placenta previa as “sinking Qi.” Additional symptoms that such a patient may experience might include digestive complaints, frequent bruising, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and a tendency to depression. The goal of treatment is raise and fortify the Qi, stop bleeding, and calm the fetus.
TCM Treatment for Placenta Previa
TCM practitioners use two techniques in treatment for placenta previa: herbal formulas and acupuncture. Usually, practitioners employ a combination of these two treatments, which provide a safe treatment option that can be effective in helping to resolve this condition in cases where the previa is minor.
- Herbal Formulas – An experienced TCM practitioner will administer an herbal formula designed specifically for your condition. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang is a classic Chinese formula used for raising Qi. It's very safe for pregnancy and is often used to prevent recurring miscarriages as well as for treating placenta previa.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture treatments are quite successful in minor cases of previa. Your practitioner will recommend a schedule of acupuncture sessions to treat your individual condition. Du 20 is the key acupuncture point for treating placenta previa. Located at the very top of the head, and it's very effective at raising Qi.
In my own acupuncture practice, I've treated many moms with placenta previa. In nearly all cases of partial previa, the condition resolved itself while the patients were undergoing regular weekly acupuncture and taking herbs daily.
In more pronounced cases where the placenta was too low lying to resolve, treatment helped to improve the patients' underlying imbalances which seemed to improved their overall health and sense of wellbeing.
What's been your experience with placenta previa?
Jennah S says
As someone who had Placenta Previa with both of my pregnancies I would not classify it as a minor complication. In my experience it was terrifying. During my first pregnancy I started hemorrhaging at 24 weeks which caused pre-term labor and landed me in the hospital for 10 weeks were I continued to hemorrhage at least weekly if not more often for the final 10 weeks of my pregnancy. Despite the fact that my placenta moved in the final weeks the hemorrhaging continued. I was able to have a vaginal delivery (induced) and delivered a healthy baby girl. My son was more of the same except I was able to evade the prolonged hosp. stay and was only in for 3 weeks his birth had to be by cesarean though and my scar is a bit bigger than necessary due to the fact that they had to cut through the placenta to get to him. I had my tubes tied after his birth. I could no longer take the risk, I was grateful for my 2 children and have been happy with my decision, but MY experiences were not minor and were rather terrifying, I wish that I knew my naturopath during my pregnancies.
Hi Jennah, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. This must have been awful to go through.
I agree with the above poster – I have this right now and mine is not even covering os, it is .9 cm away from it. Still, I was rushed by ambulance to hospital last week at 29 weeks pregnant with severe bleeding and clots coming out the size of golfballs. It was terrifying to say the least – and to know that at any minute you could hemorrhage to death is a draining and petrifying position to be in. This is a severe and life threatening condition that puts the life of baby and mom at risk. The biggest study I could find on the condition was only able to be composed because they studied POST-MORTEM autopsy reports of women who had it. Not exactly a situation to talk lightly about.
Thank you so much for posting this! I have been looking for a resolution to my marginal placenta previa and this has given me hope!!
Hi Kelly – Thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the post. 🙂
I’m having a hard time believing true previa can be ‘cured’ by TCM. Do you have any personal stories, studies, articles you could share that would provide more info?
Partial previa is most often resolved enough to birth vaginally and often does not put the patient in the high-risk category, but complete previa is a whole other matter. To lump low-lying placentas and partial and complete previas togethers seems a bit naive.
Hi Bekah – Thanks for your comment. This post was originally written many years ago before I had much experience treating moms with previa firsthand. I’ve now updated it slightly to reflect my years of experience with this condition.
You’re right, not all previa is the same: some will resolve on their own and others will not resolve despite all of the alternative treatments available. In my experience though, acupuncture and herbs can be quite effective in supporting the process. More than anything, it depends on the individual woman who is in question, including her age, constitution, and lifestyle.
One recent example was a 34 year old patient recently diagnosed with nearly complete previa who had been over-working and highly stressed during her first trimester. Otherwise completely healthy, she changed their lifestyles (rested a TON), got acupuncture, and took herbs, and on her next visit to her OB the previa had been resolved.
The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that offers a perspective that is not just a flat-out diagnosis but also seeks to understands the underlying reason why a condition occurs. Through this, the practitioner can help to determine how it may be possible to support the patient’s body in healing the problem at hand.
Where can I get those Chinese treatment in South India
Emily Bartlett says
Hi Soosai, I would suggest you contact your local healthcare practitioner to find out where your nearest provider would be. xoxo Emily
Im 15 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I have placenta previa and have been bleeding heavily for 5 weeks straight. I have had huge blood clots fall out and excrutiating pain throughout my midsextion. I have been in the ER several times, and all they say is that its a “Threatened Misscarriage”. My doctor got mad that I keep coming in, so Im out of options. Im loosing alot of blood and feel weaker and weaker by the day. I bruise easily and Im nautious. I just dont know what to do. I hope this will help me in some way. Im so worried about my baby. And Im still early in the pregnancy!
Brenda Kinnen says
Hello Dria I am wondering how your pregnancy turned out and if your previa resolved itself. I had placenta previa myself back in 2008 and know exactly how you were feeling, as you stated in the comments.
Aga obuko says
I have been bleeding since 10 weeks of my pregnancy but was only detected at 20weeks when I went for scan and the bleeding was so heavy that I was given 2Unit of blood Twice which is 4Unit and am still in hospital not knowing what the next minute hold. I am 22 weeks. Not.its killing me cos my first baby was a straight forward one with no issues. Staying in the hospital for Christmas mean even my little is suffering too.
Sanket Gandhi says
Hii.. Can you please help me where placenta previa can be treated in Munbai, India?
My first experience was with baby #2….it was monitored closely and at 38 weeks it was still slightly in the way so I was given a c-section. My Drs. and Midwives did a lot of warning me about bleeding and a lot of confusing me about what “pelvic rest” really meant.
This time, baby #4 (pregnancy #5) I am much older….at 22 weeks, my dr said this week that it is lower than he’d like and he will continue to monitor. I’d like to start “treating” it now….I think I’m more worried about the potential for bleeding this time because I’m so much older (almost 39).
I’m wondering,thought, what questions I should be asking to find the chiropractor or acupuncturist that is trained in this area. In NC, non traditional medicine is not recognized and therefore not covered by my insurance…so it’s important for me to find the right person right away.
Hey Jill, I just had a discussion about pregnancy and acupuncture with the woman I use. Granted we’re in AZ, but she charges $70 for the first appt then follow ups are $60. If you’re on a budget, like me you could talk with several and see if they do payment plans or visit them every 2 weeks, versus every week. Also you can ask each acupuncturist how much experience they have treating PP and if necessary bring the excerpt that is mentioned above from the book. You might be able to order the book from the library, paying $70 for the book I kinda hefty. I’ve had 3 kids, all natural with midwives and doulas and with M Las one, I tried acupuncture to encourage him to turn head down. I only needed one treatment but it was effective and overall pleasant. Good luck Elissa
What is the name of the person you are referring to? I am also in AZ.
Hi, I was diagnosed with complete placenta previa at 19 weeks, the majority of the placenta on the posterior wall but totally covering the cervix and partially on the anterior. I am now 25 weeks and desparate to do as much as possible as the thought of a c-section is beyond awful for me.
I have been to two acupuncture sessions so far but my acupuncturist has told me there is no point in having more treatment until I have my next scan around 32 weeks and confirm whether or not there is still an issue. Obviously I don’t want to waste money but I assumed that weekly acupuncture and some chinese herbs from around now onwards would be helpful.
At how many weeks would you suggest intense treatment? Is my acupuncturist correct in leaving it til later on or is there more I can be doing over the next 7 weeks to give my 32 week scan the best chance of having a positive result and not sending me into a complete meltdown?
It is taking every ounce of emotional strength, daily meditation and regular yoga to keep me on an even keel right now and that is because I still have hope. I don’t want to get to 32 weeks, still have an issue and find out there is more I could have done.
Hi I wa wondering how things are going with you if it cleared up ? I’m 19 weeks and was diagnosed at 15 . So I’m also hoping mine clears up
Brenda Kinnen says
Placenta previa can be diagnosed much earlier than 17 weeks as written above, I was diagnosed in the first trimester due to bleeding and abdominal pain. Thankfully, for most women it is not serious and does clear itself up safely enough to deliver vaginally without fear of hemorrhaging as stated above. But placenta previa is quite serious for some of us who are diagnosed with it and is more than “potentially harmful”. It can actually be life threatening to both mom and baby. Consider my story, my nurse midwife put me on bed rest for 3 months at home but things took a turn for the worse and I ended up going to the ER. I spent 10 days in the high risk wing of labor and delivery, at about 19 weeks gestation. We were hoping to make it to 24 weeks minimum but I was hemorrhaging every other day and had a total of 2 blood transfusions to replace the lost blood. At 20 weeks and 6 days gestation I went into labor and had an emergency c-section to save my life. We lost our baby girl that night. For those who don’t know, it is very likely that after suffering with placenta previa each subsequent pregnancy has a high chance of a recurring diagnosis of placenta previa. Hopefully the treatments mentioned in this blog will be helpful to those who have previa, I would have liked to try them.
any place in mumbai where we can treat marhinal placenta previa?
Any place in delhi for the treatment of low placenta previa
Homeopathy works beautifully
Hi I’m 21 weeks and was diagnosed with placenta previa, I’m wondering if there are any places in Anaheim, ca that treat this with the herbals and acupuncture. Please and Thank you .