OB/GYN Explains How Placenta Problems Can Lead to Pregnancy Loss Even 'Without Any Risk Factors'
While placental abruption and placenta previa are "rare," they can sometimes lead to devastating outcomes.
Following the tragic news that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen had lost their son Jack around halfway through Teigen's pregnancy after excessive bleeding from her placenta, PEOPLE spoke to Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a board-certified OB/GYN at Yale University School of Medicine, to discuss how placenta issues can lead to pregnancy loss.
"There are issues that placentas have, like when a placenta stops feeding the baby," says Dr. Minkin. "What I was assuming is that [Teigen's case] was most likely a placenta previa, where the placenta basically covers the lower part of the uterus including the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus, and can cause bleeding."
"The placenta can sort of pull away from the wall a bit," she explains. "When that happens, bleeding occurs most of the time. Fortunately the bleeding is [minimal] and seldom [occurs] this early on in the pregnancy."
Dr. Minkin, who's also a member of the PEOPLE Health Squad, says that placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall — and is "often associated with high blood pressure, toxemia pregnancy or preeclampsia" — is another possibility that could've led to Teigen's pregnancy loss.
"Sometimes [severe] bleeding occurs and unfortunately you can't operate to stop the bleeding and there's no medication to take, there's no surgery. All you can do is let nature take its course," she says. "If someone is bleeding considerably we don't even let them get up and use the potty. We let them use a bedpan."
On whether placenta complications are genetic, "No, the answer is we really don't know," says Dr. Minkin. "Sometimes bad things happen to good people. We have no idea; things can happen without any risk factors."
"Fortunately," she adds, these types of complications are rare: "A placenta previa accompanies maybe 1 percent of pregnancies. An abruption or placenta separation, maybe 1 or 2 percent of the time. These are fairly uncommon complications."
Other celebrities who have opened up about placenta issues over the years include Kim Kardashian West, who suffered from placenta accreta during her two pregnancies, and Jenny Mollen, who battled placenta previa before giving birth to her second child in October 2017. Following Teigen's announcement, Kate Beckinsale and Veronica Portillo also opened up about losses far into their pregnancies.
Of being able to conceive again after having placenta problems, Dr. Minkin says it's definitely safe most of the time, as "sometimes the placenta doesn't stick right, which is poor placentation" — but "fortunately, most of the time these complications are sort of flukes and it's just a bad-luck situation, unless they're based on a pre-existing condition."
"Some people are so [emotionally] scarred by an event like this that they're like, 'I'm done. I got two healthy kids and that's it,' " she adds. "The key thing I try to emphasize to my patients is, 'God willing, you will have another baby to love.' There's never gonna be a replacement baby but if you want to have another baby, it'll be another baby to love."
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