Vasa Praevia

What is it and what is the treatment?

Growing a baby is one of the most amazing and important jobs you’ll ever do.

And while many pregnancies will go without any complications, there are times when scans pick up certain conditions.

What is Vasa Praevia?

Vasa praevia is an uncommon condition and occurrences range from 1 in 1,200 and 1 in 5,000 pregnancies (as the condition may have been under-reported). Although rare (placenta previa is far more common), it can be dangerous for a baby but there are some signs to watch out for that can minimise the risks

This condition takes place when the umbilical cord inserts into the surface membranes of the placenta rather than directly into it. This weakens the cord and means that the blood vessels have very little support from the water membranes. If these blood vessels tear when you are in labour or when your waters break, this can cause blood loss and it is this blood loss which causes the risks to baby.

In severe cases this can lead to brain damage, organ failure and death.

The condition is more prominent if you have,

  • An unusual shaped placenta
  • A low-lying placenta or placenta previa 
  • Pregnancies resulting from IVF
  • You’ve previously had a D&C procedure
  • You’re expecting twins or more

How is Vasa Praevia diagnosed?

There aren’t many symptoms of this condition before labour and it isn’t routinely screened on the NHS, making it difficult to diagnose.

However, if you are bleeding during pregnancy then doctors may test for it using a colour Doppler during your 20 week scan. This shows where the blood is flowing and whether the vessels are embedded in the placenta.

During labour Vasa praevia could be suspected if there is bleeding and the baby's heart rate changes suddenly as this could signify the rupture of the membranes. 

I’ve been diagnosed with Vasa Praevia. What can I do?

If you are diagnosed with this condition you’ll be placed under the care of a consultant and have more scans throughout your pregnancy.

You will also be advised to have a c-section usually around 34-36 weeks of pregnancy. Your obstetrician may also recommend that you stay in hospital from 30-32 weeks of pregnancy as a precaution.


Vasa Praevia