The placenta is an organ that connects the mother’s uterine wall with the developing baby. It transports nutrients into the developing fetus, offers thermoregulation, eliminates waste and exchanges gas through the mother’s blood supply. It will also combat the internal infections and helps in hormone production for a healthy pregnancy. The placenta positions itself in the uterine wall that lies on either side or top of the uterus. In some cases, its position varies from the usual ones.
Anterior placenta develops when your baby is taking the backseat to the normal placenta. Usually, the fertilized egg implants itself in the posterior uterus, which is near to the spine. But, in some cases, the egg implants in the opposite side, that is the anterior wall of the uterus, which is close to the abdomen. In this case, the placenta develops and grows at the anterior side, i.e., the front of your uterus, with fetus behind it.
In your 20th week scan, which is known as ‘anomaly scan’, the position of the placenta is usually checked. The sonographer will describe the placental position in one of the following ways:
These are all normal places for placental implant and development. The anterior placenta usually moves away from your baby’s way by the time you deliver.
It will not matter to your baby. The location of your baby, that is on which side of the uterus he or she is lying, will certainly not make any difference. However, the position can have an effect on you in these below ways:
The anterior placenta acts as an obstacle between your baby and the uterus. You will not experience any baby movement during the progressing weeks of your pregnancy. Even in the second-trimester, anterior placenta shields the baby’s movements, and you may not feel the kicks.
It will be difficult for your doctor or midwife to hear the fetal heart beat. However, it will not interfere with any ultrasound scan or while finding out your baby’s gender.
Anterior placenta position may interfere with amniocentesis, a medical procedure. If your baby is lying in a transverse position or breech position, the anterior placenta poses a problem for bringing him out.
The above situations will settle if the placenta gets back to the posterior position that commonly happens in late pregnancy. In spite of the above difficulties, the anterior placenta will not cause any risks to you or your baby’s health.
The exact time when you can feel your baby’s movements for the first time may vary between a normal placenta and an anterior placenta. Usually, pregnant women feel the baby movements around 22nd week. Women with anterior placenta can feel them a little later. But if it later than the 24th week, consult your doctor. The movements progress through the advancing weeks wherein you may regularly count your baby kicks and recognize her sleep-wake patterns.
Your health practitioner will monitor your womb with ultrasounds in the weeks 32 to 36 to check the placental location. You can have a natural delivery as the placenta moves upwards as your baby grows. Thus, it will be out of the way by the time of labor. However, it may lead to some complications in a few cases.
If the placenta does not move upwards and remains in the lower uterine part even after reaching the 33rd to 34th week of pregnancy, it may lead to placenta previa. You may have an ultrasound scan to help your practitioners find the best position to do an incision. It will, therefore, require you to go for a caesarean section. It may also keep you at greater risk of premature labor.
Some women may have back labor leading to severe back pain and contractions. It depends on your baby’s position and your health. A few women may have back labor if babies are facing the mother’s abdomen (occiput posterior), or facing the mother’s belly. You are also likely to have back labor when your baby faces your spine.
If you had a caesarean section in the previous pregnancy, it is likely that the placenta grows on the site of the scar and the uterine walls. It is a rare condition, but ultrasound and MRI scans can diagnose it.
In one research study, it was found that anterior placenta position may cause certain health complications like gestational diabetes, placental abruption, intrauterine growth retardation and pregnancy induced hypertension (1).
The cesarean section is not the only option if you have an anterior placenta. But if placenta stays in the same place by covering the cervix even at 40 weeks of pregnancy, a normal delivery is not possible. In a few cases, the placenta partially or completely moves from the uterus, signaling a cesarean section.
Placenta grading (6) refers to an ultrasound grading of the placenta based on its maturity. It reflects the age of placenta that goes from grade one to three as your pregnancy progresses.
Placenta begins with grade zero at an early pregnancy. As pregnancy advances, the it calcifies and matures.
A properly functioning placenta is necessary for a good fetal health. Placental complications can result in growth anomalies and even fetal death. Some of the factors that affect placental health are as follows;
There are some measures to look after your placenta. They include:
The anterior placenta risks that arise are manageable as ultrasound scans reveal most potential problems beforehand. It is a common placental position and doctors can handle pregnancies with any placental position. An anterior placenta is not a cause for concern. All you need to do is follow your doctor’s suggestions and keep stress at bay. So, eat healthy, sleep better and enjoy your time now, as it is special.
Did you experience any problems during your pregnancy due to anterior placenta? Please share your experiences with us.