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What is A Placental Lake And How Does It Affect Pregnancy?

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The placenta plays a vital role in pregnancy since it keeps the fetus well-nourished and healthy. There can be several attributes of a placenta. One such feature is a placental lake, which is visible in an ultrasound scan as a large black area around the fetus. There can be several small placental lakes surrounding the baby.

But what are placental lakes made of and do they have any significance? Keep reading this MomJunction post to know about placental lakes, and how their presence affects pregnancy.

What Are Placental Lakes?

Placental lakes or placental venous lakes are spaces within the placenta filled with maternal blood. A placental lake could contain small dilated veins with maternal blood flowing through them (1).

How Common Are Placental Lakes?

Placental lakes are less common. A few studies indicate that placental lakes can have an occurrence rate of 2.2% to 17.8% (3).

What Causes Placental Lakes?

The causes of placental lakes are not entirely known. It is usually believed that they are avillous vascular spaces, that is, spaces within the placenta with no placental tissue but only blood vessels flowing through (3). Placental lakes may occur when the placenta is a bit thicker than usual (4).

Are Placental Lakes Harmful During Pregnancy?

The occurrence of a placental lake is a normal feature, and seldom a point of concern. Experts state that placental lakes have little to no clinical significance (5). Research has found no difference in the pregnancies of women with placental lakes and those without placental lakes. There was no adverse event during the pregnancy due to placental lakes. No anomalies in the baby’s gestational age and birth weight were observed (6).

When Can Placental Lakes Be Dangerous?

Placental lakes can be of concern in the following situations (4) (7).

  • They occur early, in the first trimester or early second trimester
  • Presence of more than three placental lakes
  • The diameter is more than two centimeters
  • Large placental lakes with a diameter greater than five centimeters

Complications of placental lakes

Placental lakes can be a complication only if they are affecting the growth of the fetus.

The problems caused by them may or may not happen, and you may even give birth to a healthy baby. Therefore, do not panic if you have placental lakes. Any complication related to the pregnancy is quite likely to be detected and treated early if you visit the doctor for regular ultrasound examination.

Can Placental Lakes Be Treated?

There is no specific treatment for placental lakes. If your doctor finds a placental lake during a routine ultrasound, then your pregnancy may be monitored more closely.

Do Placental Lakes Go Away?

A study monitoring placental lakes in pregnant women found that some lakes tend to decrease in size, some disappear, while some remain (7). Any changes to the size and presence of placental lakes will be detected during your routine ultrasound examination.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can placental lakes cause preterm labor?

No correlation or association has been reported between the presence of placental lakes and preterm labor. 

2. Can placental lakes cause miscarriage?

No correlation or association has been reported between the presence of placental lakes and miscarriage.

Placental lakes can occur in any pregnancy, and the feature can be easily detected during an ultrasound. In general, their presence has not been associated with complications or adverse pregnancy outcomes. So do not worry if your placenta has a placental lake. Eat well, rest well, and get your regular check-ups to have a healthy pregnancy.

Have anything to share about placental lakes? Do tell us in the comments section below.

References:

1. Zaidi S.F. et al., Comprehensive imaging review of abnormalities of the placenta; Ultrasound quarterly
2. Fadl S. et al., Placental imaging: normal appearance with review of pathologic findings; Radiographics
3. B.D. Kulas et al., An Unusual Prenatal Ultrasound Image of Placental Lake in High Risk Pregnancy; Nepal Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
4. Thompson M.O. et al., Are placental lakes of any clinical significance?; National Center for Biotechnology Information
5. Holzman J. et al., Ultrasound of the  Placenta; Donald School Journal of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
6. N.S.V. Reis et al., Placental lakes on sonographic examination: correlation with obstetric outcome and pathologic findings; Journal of Clinical Ultrasound
7. H.S. Hwang et al., The clinical significance of large placental lakes; European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology

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