What Is Vasa Previa?

By Heather Stobbe

February 12, 2019

Heather Stobbe is a Registered Nurse with over 14 years of experience in Perinatal Nursing and Public Health Nursing. She is passionate about helping moms with breastfeeding, encouraging healthy sleep habits for babies & toddlers, and providing prenatal education to couples. Heather's goal as a Mama Coach is to make motherhood easier by providing accurate health information and support to families.

Vasa Previa is a condition in pregnancy where some of the fetal blood vessels that are usually contained within the umbilical cord or placenta, lie across the opening of the cervix. Near the start of labour, when the membranes rupture or the cervix begins to dilate, these unprotected vessels can be torn resulting in substantial blood loss for mom or baby. Vasa Previa occurs in anywhere from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 5,000 pregnancies and can be very dangerous if not diagnosed before labour begins.

WHAT IF I HAVE VASA PREVIA?

If you have been told you have this condition in your pregnancy, let me put your mind at ease. In developed countries where ultrasounds are routine, Vasa Previa is often detected well before delivery. This means that a plan can be put in place to protect you and your baby. Your doctor will recommend that you deliver via cesarean section so that there is less chance that your membranes will rupture naturally. Because it is difficult to predict when this might happen, your cesarean section will likely be scheduled for around 35-36 weeks gestation.

Around 28-30 weeks gestation, your doctor may recommend twice weekly Non-Stress Tests to record baby’s movement, heartbeat, and any contractions. You will also be given corticosteroid injections to help mature your baby’s lungs. And at 32 weeks gestation or sooner, your doctor may want to admit you to hospital for intermittent or continuous fetal monitoring. Remember, if your membranes were to rupture it would require an emergency cesarean section, so the closer you are to the operating room the better.

WHAT SYMPTOMS DO I NEED TO WATCH FOR?

With Vasa Previa you may not have any symptoms at all. But if you experience sudden heavy or small amounts of painless bleeding, get it checked out right away. Any amount of bleeding should be investigated to determine whether the blood is maternal or fetal, and if the baby is in distress.

WHAT IS THE SURVIVAL RATE?

When diagnosed prenatally, the prognosis of survival is very good. The fetal mortality rate is very low when an elective cesarean section is performed after fetal lung maturity is adequate.

QUESTIONS?

This is a brief overview of the pregnancy complication Vasa Previa.

For specific information or questions related to your pregnancy, please consult with your health care provider or contact a Mama Coach directly.

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