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Vasa Previa: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications, Diagnosis

What is Vasa Previa?

Vasa previa is a special case in which the blood vessels of the placenta or the umbilical cord get trapped between the fetus and inner opening of the birth canal. Vasa previa occurs in very rare cases but poses a high risk of hemorrhage to the fetus. Thus, it is a severe condition that threatens the life of the fetus during the vaginal delivery.

Vasa previa may also lead to a condition where the fetus is unable to get the necessary amount of oxygen. This condition may go undetected until the fetal vessel actually ruptures. Early detection of the condition can reduce the chances of complications during delivery and save the life of fetus.

What is Vasa Previa?

Causes of Vasa Previa

Medical experts are still not sure about the exact reason or reasons for this abnormal condition of vasa previa. Some experts believe that vasa previa may occur if the lower part of the placenta has more nutrients as compared to the top. As the condition of vasa previa occurs in very few cases, there is very little research being carried out on this topic. Some experts are trying to study the similarities in the people who develop this condition of vasa previa.

The following similarities have been reported in case of women developing this condition of vasa previa:

  • Occurrence of placenta previa in the past especially during the ending few months of the pregnancy
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancies in which the sperm is fused with the ovum outside the body in a laboratory and then transferred into the womb.
  • Any cases of Caesarean section delivery in the past.

It is still not sure as to how this condition of vasa previa is related to pregnancies induced by IVF. However, it has been found in every one case out of 300 instances of IVF. Placenta previa is another medical condition that is closely associated with vasa previa. These occurrence of the both the conditions in the same patient can significantly increase the risk to life of the fetus.

Symptoms of Vasa Previa

Vasa previa can be hard to detect early as it may not show any signs and symptoms until the time of labor or delivery. In such cases, the color of the baby’s blood usually turns to dark red due to lack of oxygen. Thus, if the water that breaks out during the labor show any traces of dark burgundy blood, it might be an indication of vasa previa.

Some of the other symptoms of vasa previa are as follows:

  • Vaginal bleeding with any feeling of pain
  • Heartbeat of the fetus lower than the normal rate
  • Rupturing of blood vessels.

Diagnosis of Vasa Previa

It is possible to identify the signs of vasa previa as early as the second trimester and take necessary precautions. Following methods are helpful in diagnosing Vasa Previa:

  • A special type of imaging test known as prenatal ultrasonography that is used to ensure that the fetus is developing normally in the womb.
  • Vasa previa condition can also be detected during the examination of reproductive organs of the women via transvaginal ultrasonography.
  • The chances of detecting a case of vasa previa increase significantly if it is combined with Doppler color flow mapping.

Treatment for Vasa Previa

Following treatment options/preventive measures are available to reduce the complications occurring due to rupturing of blood vessels during vasa previa.

  • Opting for the cesarean section birth instead of vaginal delivery can improve the chances of survival of the baby in case of rupturing of blood vessels.
  • Evaluation of the cervix at regular intervals via transvaginal ultrasound
  • Regular monitoring and even admitting mother if necessary to offer required medical attention
  • In case of a premature birth of the child, injecting steroids in the new born helps in the proper development of the lungs. However, amniotic fluid test is needed to know if the steroids are required.

Complications of Vasa Previa

Vasa previa is a severe condition that could very quickly becoming life threatening for the fetus. It can lead to one or more of the following complications:

  • A condition known as velamentous cord insertion in which the umbilical cord of the fetus gets attached to the fetal membranes instead of placenta, increasing the chances of rupturing of blood vessels.
  • Vasa previa can result into severe complications if there is occurrence of succenturiate lobe.
  • Minor placenta previa is another complication that may result in this condition. In this case a small part of the placenta tends to go lower than the normal position.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Vasa previa. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vasa-previa/symptoms-causes/syc-20363458
  2. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. (2018). Vasa previa: prenatal diagnosis, natural evolution, and clinical outcome. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002937818305110
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2021). Vasa Previa. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001485.htm
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 3, 2023

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