Partial Placenta Previa: Is Abstinence Necessary?

When I was diagnosed with a partial placenta previa at 26 weeks, my doctor advised me to abstain from sexual intercourse. I have had no further bleeding since then. Will I have to abstain for the rest of the pregnancy?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

Of course, your own provider is the best person to ask about this, and my best answer is "it depends."

If a partial or marginal previa is diagnosed in the second trimester, research shows there's only a 2.5 percent chance it will persist into the third trimeser; if it's a complete previa, the chance increases to 26 percent.

The fact that you have had some bleeding may not bode well for total resolution of the previa by the last month. Most authorities agree that if you have bleeding from a previa, you should avoid any lifting, strenuous work, aerobic exercise and intercourse during the pregnancy. Unfortunately, this goes for orgasm as well, as you are at risk for preterm labor and orgasm increases that risk. Increasing the amount of iron in your diet is beneficial to prepare for any future blood loss.

One or more additional ultrasounds should be performed to follow the progression of the placenta. The baby should also be followed to make certain that the fetal growth is normal.

When the previa still exists at 30 to 35 weeks, there is a one-in-four chance of significant blood loss, so it is important to be seen frequently and to be alert for any spotting or cramping. If the previa persists to 36 to 38 weeks, a trial of labor may be performed, depending on the amount of placenta in contact with the cervix.

If ultrasound shows total resolution of the previa, and no more spotting occurs, it may be possible to return to normal sexual activity.

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