"I’m feeling really good, but my placenta’s really, really weak, and it’s causing me to really bleed a lot."

By Korin Miller
Updated September 28, 2020
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Chrissy Teigen, who's currently pregnant with her third child, was hospitalized Sunday evening after being on bed rest for weeks due to a "weak placenta."

Teigen, 34, revealed she was in the hospital in an Instagram Story (she accidentally posted the phone number to her hospital room, so she eventually had to switch rooms). She said she'd been on "super serious bed rest" since earlier in September—that meant getting up to quickly pee, and taking baths not showers. During that time, Teigen said she was "always, always bleeding." "We're talking more than your period, girls," Teigen said, adding that she'd been bleeding pretty steadily for around a month.

But, Teigen said, something changed that prompted her hospital visit: "It kind of was like if you were to turn a faucet on to low and just leave it there."

Teigen opened up about what's at the root of this bleeding in her Instagram Stories a few weeks ago. "My placenta sucks," she said. "It's always been kind of the bad part of my pregnancies, with Luna, with Miles [the placenta] just like stopped feeding him, it stopped taking care of him." Because of this, Teigen said Miles, 2, and Luna, 4, were born early and that she had to be induced both times.

With this pregnancy so far, Teigen said that the baby is "growing beautifully, everything’s good, I’m feeling really good, but my placenta’s really, really weak, and it’s causing me to really bleed a lot.” Teigen said that her pregnancy is considered “pretty high risk,” adding, “We just have to get my placenta healthy again and that means not moving. So I’m on complete and total don’t get out except to pee pee bed rest."

And in her most recent Instagram Stories talk, Teigen also made a point to ask her followers—even medical professionals who are fans—to (respectfully) keep their diagnoses to themselves, because the truth is, no one knows exactly what is going on with Teigen's pregnancy other than her family and her medical team. "If you are a doctor, I cannot express enough how badly I would like for you to stop your guessing games or Twitter pleas to figure out what I'm doing wrong or diagnosing me via Twitter," she said. "You have to trust me that I have very good doctors that know what they're doing, that know the entire story."

She ended her Stories session by explaining again, what was going on with her in the simplest of terms: "I guess in the simplest of terms we can say my placenta is really, really weak," she said. "So I feel really good, the baby is so healthy," adding that the baby is basically "the strongest, coolest dude in the shittiest house."

What does it mean to have a "weak" placenta?

Before we get into that, it’s important to go over what a placenta is and does. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the placenta is an organ that’s formed during pregnancy that functions as a life-support system for the baby. It transfers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to the fetus from the mom, and takes out waste products from the fetus for removal.

Having a “weak” placenta isn’t a medical term, but it could be used to describe a few different conditions. One of those is known as a placental insufficiency, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, tells Health. “It is caused by the placenta not developing properly or is damaged,” she says.

With placental insufficiency, “the placenta isn’t necessarily as healthy as it is in a regular, uncomplicated pregnancy,” Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells Health. Placental insufficiency can happen in women who have blood clotting disorders, anemia, and diabetes, Dr. Greves says. A placental insufficiency may be detected through an ultrasound and by other monitoring, Dr. Greves says.

Another issue linked to the placenta during pregnancy is something called placental abruption, which is the separation of the placenta from the uterine lining, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). The condition can happen anytime after the 20th week of pregnancy, but it's rare: only about 1% of all pregnant women will experience a placental abruption—and women with a history of smoking, drug use, hypertension, or previous placental abruption have an increased risk.

Placenta previa, another problem associated with the placenta during pregnancy, occurs when the placenta grows in the lowest part of the uterus, covering all or part of the cervical opening, according to the US National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus resource. This condition is rare too, also happening during the later stages of pregnancy, and is more common in women who have an abnormally-shaped uterus, have had multiple pregnancies, and who have undergone in vitro fertilization, per MedlinePlus.

Placenta accreta is one more placenta problem during pregnancy—the condition happens when the placenta attaches too deeply to the uterine wall. The National Accreta Foundation (NAF) estimates that placenta accreta occurs in 1 in 272 births, and the risk of a woman experiencing this placenta problem increases with each C-section and uterine surgery, as can advanced maternal age.

What are signs or symptoms of placental problems? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should consult your health care provider if you ever experience any of the following symptoms during pregnancy:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Uterine contractions

Those symptoms have all been linked to placental abruption, placenta previa, and placenta accreta. It's important to note that, however, bleeding isn't necessarily tied to placental insufficiency, which doesn't usually exhibit symptoms. But that doesn't mean that placental insufficiency will never cause bleeding of some sort. "Spotting is common in pregnancy, but it's never normal," Michael Cackovic, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner, tells Health. “Ultimately, I’m not surprised when somebody has a history of spotting or bleeding in pregnancy and then develops placental insufficiency.”

On the other side of things, placenta problems can deprive the growing fetus of essential oxygen and nutrients, causing the the fetus not to grow as well as it should. Other placental problems, according to the March of Dimes, can lead to health risks for both mom and fetus, like premature birth, potential birth defects, and in some cases miscarriage. Sometimes, a true diagnosis won't be available until after birth, when doctors can send a woman's placenta in for testing.

How are these placenta problems treated?

You can only do so much about your placenta once it’s formed, Dr. Greves says. But if you have any type of placental problem, you'll likely be given a lot more monitoring through more frequent doctor's visits, stress tests, and ultrasounds to ensure a safe, healthy-as-possible pregnancy.

Best rest can also be helpful, Dr. Wider says. “Bed rest helps because it decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, decreases the chances of vaginal bleeding, and maximizes positive fetal outcomes,” she says. In some cases, according to MedlinePlus, your provider may decide to deliver the baby as soon as possible, possibly through a C-section delivery.

But ultimately, the treatment around placental problems depends on a woman's health history and how she and her doctor have decided to handle the situation. “It all depends on what the obstetrical team decides,” Dr. Greves says. So as long as bed rest is what Teigen's doctors are prescribing for her and her baby, that's exactly what she should do.

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