How Dangerous Is Placenta Accreta?

Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

By now, you may have heard that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are reportedly hiring a surrogate for Baby #3, according to People. (The couple hasn't confirmed the news and Bustle has reached out to their reps for comment, but has not yet received a response.) You may also have heard that the reason why is because Kardashian had pregnancy-related health problems in the past, namely, placenta accreta. So, the question is: Is placenta accreta dangerous? Yes, it can potentially be life-threatening, but not necessarily.

"Placenta abnormalities can be serious, life-threatening medical obstetrical complications," Dr. Michael Krychman, Sexual Medicine Gynecologist, Executive Director of the Southern California Center For Sexual Health and Survivorship, tells Bustle. "With an accreta, you can hemorrhage and have serious life-threatening complications. When bleeding is uncontrollable, it may require transfusions and or life-saving surgical intervention, such as a hysterectomy."

With Placenta Accreta, What Happens To The Placenta?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the placenta normally attaches to the uterine wall. But, if the placenta attaches itself too deeply into the wall of the uterus, one of three issues can occur — placenta accreta, placenta increta, or placenta percreta. It will depend on the severity and deepness of the placenta attachment. Placenta accreta, the condition Kardashian had, is the most common of the three, accounting for approximately 75 percent of all cases, states the American Pregnancy Association. It happens when the placenta attaches too deep into the uterine wall; however, it does not penetrate the uterine muscle.

"A prenatal ultrasound with blood flow Doppler can be a helpful clinical tool for the OB/GYN as they monitor women with suspected accreta and or other placental abnormalities," Krychman says. "Surveillance and advanced preparation can be invaluable when planning management for these serious complications."

Here are seven key things to know about placenta accreta, and why it has the potential to be dangerous.

The Exact Cause Of Placenta Accreta Is Unknown

While placenta accreta is thought to be related to abnormalities in the lining of the uterus, such as after uterine surgery or after a C-section, according to the Mayo Clinic, that is not always the case. In some cases, there's no history of uterine trouble. In addition, it is more common in women over 35, and the risk of it also increases each time you give birth. Plus, if your placenta partially or completely covers your cervix, i.e., placenta previa, or sits in the lower portion of your uterus, you're at increased risk of placenta accreta.

Oftentimes, There Are No Symptoms

Placenta accreta usually does not cause symptoms or signs during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, it is often discovered during a routine ultrasound. In addition, vaginal bleeding during the third trimester may occur, as well as severe abdominal pain. In Kardashian's case, she suffered from toxemia and a retained placenta during her last pregnancy, reports E! News. She had been diagnosed with early-onset preeclampsia, and she even had to deliver North at only 34 weeks. You may remember that Kardashian had also blogged about her high-risk pregnancy.

It Can Cause Severe Bleeding

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a woman with placenta accreta can lose a lot of blood during delivery, an average of three to five liters (0.8 to 1.3 gallons). As a result, up to 90 percent of women with placenta accreta need a blood transfusion during delivery, states ACOG. However, one can lose so much blood, in fact, that seven percent of women with it do not survive, even when all necessary precautions are taken. Placenta accreta can also cause problems with blood clotting, or disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, states Healthline.

It Can Also Cause Other Severe Complications

According to Healthline, placenta accreta can cause even more complications, such as lung failure, or adult respiratory distress syndrome, kidney failure, and premature birth. Of course, reactions to anesthesia, blood clots, and wound infections are added risks, as is damage to other organs, such as the bladder, if the placenta has attached to them.

Placenta Accreta Can Cause Complications For The Baby, Too

Though risks to the baby during a C-section delivery are rare, states Healthline, they include surgical injury or breathing problems. Also, babies that are born prematurely are more at-risk for health problems overall. As was mentioned above, Kardashian had to deliver North at just 34 weeks.

One Solution For Placenta Accreta Is Having The Uterus Removed

If a woman has placenta accreta, doctors will monitor her closely, according to ACOG. They will also recommend that the baby is delivered via C-section and that, afterwards, the woman get a hysterectomy. However, not all women want their uterus removed, since they want more children. But then they will have increased risks for a reoccurrence of placenta accreta, miscarriage, and premature birth, states Healthline. This is when getting a surrogate would come into the picture.

There Is No Way To Prevent It

Although there is no way to prevent placenta accreta, the best thing to do for it is being closely monitored by your doctor during your pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association, and like Dr. Krychman states above.

While placenta accreta can definitely be dangerous, it varies case-to-case. Of course, it is best to be aware of the warning signs, and, if diagnosed, to be in the hands of the best doctors out there so that all the best treatment measures can be taken.