Placenta previa is a condition in pregnancy characterized by the implantation of the placenta in the lower part of the uterus covering a part or all of the opening of the cervix. This condition can result in bleeding during pregnancy or during the delivery of the baby.
The placenta provides the growing fetus with nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s blood supply during pregnancy. It usually grows into the upper part of the uterus and stays there until the baby is born. After delivery, the placenta will separate from the uterine wall and is pushed out from the uterus. This is referred to as afterbirth.
In this article:
- Risk Factors
- Nursing Process
- Nursing Care Plans
Risk factors for placenta previa include:
- Advanced maternal age
- Scarring in the uterus due to previous surgery
- Previous C-section delivery
- Cocaine use
Many patients with placenta previa have no symptoms. Placenta previa is usually found during a routine ultrasound. If symptoms do occur, it is usually painless vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester.
Complications of placenta previa include hemorrhage, fetal distress, shock from blood loss for the mother and baby, preterm labor and delivery, emergency cesarean delivery, and death.
Placenta previa management includes interventions that prolong the pregnancy and prevent bleeding. Hospitalization may be required for close monitoring along with the administration of medications that help prevent early labor. Cesarean delivery is often indicated to reduce bleeding.
Nurses play a critical part in supporting women with placenta previa as they provide education, examinations, and medical interventions to prevent maternal and fetal mortality.
Nursing Care Plans
Once the nurse identifies nursing diagnoses for placenta previa, nursing care plans help prioritize assessments and interventions for both short and long-term goals of care. In the following section, you will find nursing care plan examples for placenta previa.
Decreased Cardiac Output
Since placenta previa can cause bleeding, the heart needs to work harder and faster to pump blood throughout the body to compensate for the blood loss.
Nursing Diagnosis: Decreased Cardiac Output
- Vaginal bleeding
- Complications of condition
As evidenced by:
- ECG changes
- Decreased peripheral pulses
- Prolonged capillary refill
- Patient will exhibit vital signs within normal limits.
- Patient will remain free from complications from decreased cardiac output, like poor tissue perfusion, organ failure, and shock.
1. Assess the patient’s blood pressure and other vital signs.
Blood pressure is closely related to cardiac output. It is approximated by blood flow and systemic vascular resistance. Cardiac output decreases when there is a decrease in blood pressure due to bleeding in patients with placenta previa.
2. Assess the patient’s level of consciousness.
Alterations in cardiac output due to bleeding cause blood vessel constriction, reduced cerebral blood flow, and increased arterial stiffness, leading to cognitive decline and mental status alterations.
3. Monitor the fetus.
Placenta previa, if left untreated, can have detrimental effects on the fetus. Decreased cardiac output can compromise the blood supply to the fetus, resulting in fetal growth retardation and fetal distress.
1. Prepare for inpatient admission.
Patients who are unstable with three or more bleeding episodes are recommended to remain hospitalized until delivery. Patients with one or two bleeding episodes may be discharged, but only if they can adhere to treatment guidelines and are in close proximity to a hospital.
2. Administer medications to prepare for delivery.
Magnesium sulfate offers neuroprotection for fetuses at <32 weeks gestation when delivery is imminent but not urgent. Corticosteroids are also administered when bleeding is present to support fetal lung maturity.
3. Administer blood transfusions as indicated.
Decreased cardiac output in patients with placenta previa is typically caused by active bleeding. Prompt blood transfusions can correct circulating blood volume and increase cardiac output, preventing fetal and maternal complications.
4. Provide a quiet and calm environment.
Bleeding while pregnant can cause intense anxiety in the pregnant patient. A calm and quiet environment relaxes the patient and reduces the release of stress-related catecholamines, which cause vasoconstriction, increased myocardial workload, and alterations in cardiac output.
5. Assist with surgical interventions as needed.
If hemorrhaging occurs, surgical interventions such as ligation of vessels, compression sutures, or balloon tamponade are necessary to control bleeding and preserve cardiac output. A hysterectomy may be necessary to prevent severe hypovolemia and hypoxia.
Deficient Fluid Volume
Deficient fluid volume occurs from bleeding because of disrupted placental implantation during pregnancy, leading to decreased intravascular, intracellular, or interstitial fluid.
Nursing Diagnosis: Deficient Fluid Volume
- Disease process
- Disrupted placental implantation
As evidenced by:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased pulse pressure
- Altered mental status
- Increased heart rate
- Alteration in hemoglobin and hematocrit
- Vaginal bleeding
- Patient will maintain normal fluid status, as evidenced by acceptable vital signs and adequate urinary output.
- Patient will adhere to recommendations on limiting exercise and exertion to prevent disrupting the placenta.
1. Assess for signs of bleeding and other factors contributing to fluid loss.
The main symptom of placenta previa is painless and bright red vaginal bleeding which usually occurs after 20 weeks gestation. Sometimes there is no identifiable cause of the bleeding, but it can be caused by strenuous activity, vaginal intercourse, and standing for long periods.
2. Assess and monitor the patient’s vital signs.
Baseline vital signs must be assessed and monitored to determine indications of hypovolemic shock. Signs of hypovolemic shock include tachycardia, tachypnea, and hypotension.
3. Assess lab values.
Decreases in hemoglobin and hematocrit signal blood loss and must be monitored to assess the efficacy of interventions or deconditioning. The goal is a hemoglobin level >10 g/dL.
1. Monitor the patient’s intake and output.
Monitoring the patient’s intake and output is vital in determining the patient’s fluid status and adequate blood volume perfusing the patient’s organs.
2. Quantify blood loss.
Measuring blood loss visually on soaked towels, pads, or gauze is difficult. Attempt to collect blood in graduated containers or measure the weight of bloody materials subtracted from their weight when dry. This weight in grams is approximately the volume of blood in mL. If possible, account for other sources of fluid loss, like amniotic fluid, irrigation fluid, or urine.
3. Monitor the fetal heart rate and contractions continuously.
Deficient fluid and blood volume can negatively affect and compromise fetal health. Bleeding from placenta previa can cause fetal hypoxia due to inadequate uteroplacental perfusion.
4. Administer IV fluids or blood products as indicated.
To ensure adequate fluid circulation, administer intravenous crystalloid fluids or blood products as indicated to allow prompt fluid replacement in cases of active bleeding.
5. Administer oxytocin.
In the postpartum phase, oxytocin may be administered to control heavy bleeding, as this medication causes the uterus to contract.
Impaired Physical Mobility
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not recommend bed rest in most instances, but reduced activity and lifestyle changes may be required.
Nursing Diagnosis: Impaired Physical Mobility
- Activity restrictions
- Disease process
- Increased risk for bleeding
As evidenced by:
- Medical protocol requiring reduced activity
- Patient will verbalize understanding and adhere to the prescribed activity restrictions.
- Patient will prevent loss of muscle strength and endurance during bed rest.
1. Assess usual activity levels.
Assess the patient’s current exercise and activity levels. Those who partake in strenuous exercise or weight-lifting will likely require reduced activity until after delivery.
2. Assess for a support system.
If bed rest or activity restrictions are instituted the mother may require help with other children or responsibilities. Assess for the presence of a partner or family member that can help.
1. Educate on the importance of reduced activity.
Reduced activity places less pressure on the cervix and may help the placenta function better to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
2. Instruct on specific restrictions.
Complete bed rest is often not required. If it is, teach the mother that they should only partake in minimal activities such as walking to the bathroom, sitting at a desk, and standing or walking for less than 20 minutes.
3. Educate on other activities to maintain muscle strength.
Patients can usually partake in stretching of the extremities while in bed or other activities that promote circulation. Always discuss with a doctor first.
4. Left side-lying is recommended.
Lying on the left side is generally recommended during pregnancy to maximize blood flow to the uterus.
Risk for Bleeding
Pregnant women with placenta previa are at risk for bleeding and require monitoring and education on preventing bleeding.
Nursing Diagnosis: Risk for Bleeding
- Disease process
- Low-lying placenta
- Sexual intercourse
- Vaginal examinations
As evidenced by:
A risk diagnosis is not evidenced by signs and symptoms as the problem has not yet occurred. Nursing interventions are aimed at prevention.
- Patient discusses and demonstrates precautions to prevent bleeding complications.
- Patient is able to deliver the fetus without excessive bleeding.
1. Assess vital signs.
Increased pulse rate and decreased blood pressure can signal bleeding. Vital signs should be closely monitored with placenta previa.
2. Assess and monitor diagnostic studies.
Transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasounds should be conducted to monitor the location of the placenta.
3. Assess coagulation studies.
Closely monitor PTT and hemoglobin levels for possible bleeding risks.
1. Type and cross.
To prepare for possible bleeding, ensure the patient is type and crossed for potential blood transfusions.
2. Administer blood transfusions as indicated.
A blood transfusion may be indicated for patients with placenta previa who have active heavy bleeding.
3. Educate on preventing bleeding.
Teach the patient that sexual intercourse or vaginal penetration can provoke bleeding. Instruct not to partake in strenuous activity or lift over 20 pounds.
4. Prepare the patient for Cesarean section.
Patients with placenta previa will usually require Cesarean section delivery at 36-37 weeks. Prepare the patient for what to expect pre and post-operatively.
Situational Low Self-Esteem
Pregnancy can be an emotional time and this can be aggravated when there are complications. Pregnant women diagnosed with placenta previa may feel stressed or anxious upon confirmation of diagnosis and may feel guilt that they did something wrong to contribute to their condition, especially if fetal or maternal harm occurs.
Nursing Diagnosis: Situational Low Self-Esteem
- Change in health status
- Situational crisis
As evidenced by:
- Expresses helplessness
- Self-negating verbalizations
- Underestimates ability to deal with the situation
- Expresses guilt or shame
- Patient will verbalize acceptance of the diagnosis and a positive outlook.
- Patient will adhere to the treatment plan to reduce risks to self and fetus.
1. Assess for any signs of depression.
Pregnancy itself can cause feelings of depression, especially if the patient has a history. Threats to the patient’s health as well as their fetus can increase these feelings.
2. Assess for thoughts of low self-esteem.
Assess how the patient is feeling in regards to their self-worth and if they place any blame on themselves for their diagnosis.
1. Help the patient focus on what they can control.
The patient may not be able to control the position of the placenta but they can be taught lifestyle modifications to prevent bleeding and preterm labor.
2. Educate the patient about the causes of placenta previa.
Often there is no cause for placenta previa or causes can be vague. Maternal age over 35 can be a contributor as well as simply being pregnant before. A past surgical procedure such as D&C which is often done after a miscarriage or abortion is a risk factor and may cause unnecessary feelings of guilt to the mother. Educate them that they are not to blame.
3. Provide emotional and psychological support.
Allow the patient to verbalize feelings and concerns about the current situation. Listen and remain nonjudgmental. Provide support and reassurance that the medical team is providing excellent care to prevent complications and ensure a safe delivery.
4. Refer the patient to support groups.
Knowing that she is not alone and that other pregnant women have gotten through this condition can help the mother cope with her pregnancy and delivery.
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