How does placental abruption relate to HIE?

A: Under normal circumstances, the placenta (the structure that transports gases and nutrients between mother and child) remains attached to the uterus until after the baby is delivered. If there’s a placental abruption, the placenta separates too early (while the baby is not yet delivered), jeopardizing the health of both mother and child. Placental abruption can causes severe bleeding in the mother. It can also cut off oxygen to the baby, causing hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Even if the abruption is not initially severe, it can turn severe very quickly, requiring a rapid C-section.


Because the baby is entirely dependent on the placenta for gas exchange, any condition where blood flow is compromised can harm gas exchange rates and oxygen supply. This is especially serious if the abruption occurs at the location where the umbilical cord inserts into the placenta, because this entirely cuts off oxygen supply to the baby. The severity of the abruption depends on its size and location, as well as how much reserve the baby has and how much times passes before delivery.

placental abruption; fetal hypoxia; hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy; HIE; birth asphyxia; umbilical cord; placenta; fetal oxygen deprivation

Placental abruption with resultant hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)

How Is a Placental Abruption Diagnosed?

There are no specific tests for placental abruption, and ultrasounds may or may not show abruption. It is usually found if the mother has vaginal bleeding or a sudden hemorrhage, though this may not always be the case — some abruptions show no bleeding at all.

Usually, abruption is determined based on signs and symptoms, as well as the mother’s medical history. Because diagnosis of placental abruption is observation-based, the physician should pay close attention to the mother and baby (especially if the mother has known risk factors for placental abruption). It is important to monitor the fetal heart rate properly, in case fetal heart tracings show signs of fetal distress.

Legal Help for Birth Injury from Placental Abruptions

Birth injuries can be devastating on a parent, and finding help can seem difficult. The birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh, P.C. focus exclusively on birth injuries, and can help you and your family secure your child’s future. We can provide you with a free case evaluation and inform you of your legal options. Please feel free to reach out to us in any of the following ways:

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Call our toll-free phone line at 888-419-2229
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Related Reading: Placental Abruption and HIE

Related Reading: About Reiter & Walsh, P.C.