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Anterior Placenta – Causes, Symptoms, Risks & Precautions

What Is Anterior Placenta?

The placenta is a temporary organ that develops and stays inside a woman's womb only during pregnancy. It is somewhat disk-shaped and performs functions vital to the proper growth and development of the foetus until delivery. It is through the placenta that the necessary nutrients and oxygen from the mother's body are delivered to the foetus inside the womb. Along with that, the placenta also facilitates the removal of the waste products that the baby produces, all of this through the mother's bloodstream. During childbirth or delivery, the placenta is also delivered out with the baby.

Not many people, until pregnancy, know that the placenta can form and develop in different positions inside the womb. Basically, the placenta can attach anywhere on the uterine wall, the most common positions being on the top or side of the uterus. It can also attach to the back portion of the uterus, near the mother's spine - known as the posterior position.

A relatively not-so-common position is the anterior one, wherein the placenta attaches to the anterior or front portion of the uterus. Although it isn't a major cause for concern, there are certain factors that can cause complications.

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The position of your placenta can be determined through an ultrasound that your doctor would perform around the 18th to 21st week of your pregnancy. Keep scrolling down to read more about the anterior position.

What Causes Anterior Placenta?

After fertilization takes place, the fertilized egg then travels through the fallopian tube to reach the uterus wherein it attaches itself to the uterine wall. Once the egg attaches itself, the placenta then starts to develop in that spot as the foetus continues growing. The egg can get attached to any part of the uterus - top, sides, back or front wall. If the egg gets attached to the front or anterior portion near to the mother's abdomen, then the placenta develops on the anterior side of the uterus.

In other positions, the placenta develops behind the baby and the baby lies close to the mother's belly. But, in the anterior placental position, the baby grows behind the placenta while the placenta lies close to the mother's belly. Anterior placenta is no different from the placenta that develops in other portions. Whatever its position is, it performs its usual tasks, nevertheless.

But, are there specific risk factors which make certain women develop anterior placentas while others don't? A study found out that women with O positive blood group were more at risk of developing an anterior placenta. Another study found out that the mother's sleeping position during the early gestation period influences the position of the placental implantation

How To Know If You Have An Anterior Placenta?

It is difficult to determine the position of your placenta unless the doctor performs an ultrasound scan because of the absence of any visible symptoms. You may or may not experience any of the bodily changes mentioned. Some of the symptoms mentioned by different women are abdominal pain, back pain, vaginal bleeding, fast uterine contractions, etc.

Although, if you have these symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have an anterior placenta, as these are symptoms also associated with other conditions during pregnancy.

The best symptom by far would be if you cannot feel the foetal movement properly even after 23 weeks of pregnancy. According to different studies conducted, anterior placental development was found to be one of the reasons why mothers experienced DFM (Decreased Foetal Movement) during different stages of their pregnancy.

If you experience DFM even after 23 weeks, ensure that you inform your doctor soon after that so that he can perform an ultrasound. In addition to that, if you've suffered a trauma or an injury during pregnancy, it is likely that your placental health will be affected by it.

Can You Feel The Baby Move With Anterior Placenta?

Having anterior placenta doesn't hinder the development of your baby inside the womb. But since the placenta is attached to the anterior or front portion of the uterine wall, it'll make it a little difficult to feel the baby's movements. This is because the placenta, being in between the baby and the uterine wall near the belly, will form a cushion between your belly and the baby, unlike other cases in which the placenta lies behind the baby making it easier to feel the baby's movements.

The baby's kicks cannot be felt as strongly and it will also take more effort to hear your baby's heartbeats because of the space between the baby and the belly. In addition to that, it will also be difficult to detect the exact position of the baby inside the womb.

Are There Any Complications With Anterior Placenta?

The placenta itself is not a cause for concern, as it continues to carry out the functions that it normally does. But once the placenta starts growing, the direction of its growth could potentially lead to complications. There are chances that your anterior placenta grows downwards towards the cervix rather than the normal upward growth.

Usually, the placenta shifts position during the course of the pregnancy as the uterus expands and hence, even if your placental position is a little low-lying or close to the cervix, it will rise to a higher position in the uterus as the pregnancy advances, thereby eliminating complications.

But, if this doesn't happen and your placenta lies very low on the uterine wall towards the end of the pregnancy, it may partially or completely block your cervix and thereby block the baby's way out during delivery. This condition is called placenta previa and causes bleeding and other complications during delivery.

On one hand, placenta previa makes it necessary to perform a Caesarean or C-section and on the other hand, performing a C-section with a low-lying and anterior placenta will cause other complications. Since the placenta is on the anterior wall of the uterus, any cutting or tearing is not without the risk of excessive blood loss.

Another complication is regarding the process of amniocentesis - a prenatal test in which amniotic fluid is collected from the sac to test for foetal anomalies - which requires a needle to be inserted into the uterus through the abdomen. The anterior position of the placenta will pose risks like bleeding in the membrane.

Yet another condition is the placenta accreta. If you have undergone uterine surgeries prior to your pregnancy, then there are chances that the anterior placenta will grow into and through the wall of the uterus wherein your previous scar lies. This is yet another condition like the placenta previa and will cause complications during delivery.

Another scientific research article mentions the possible connection between anterior placenta and the position of the baby inside the womb. Babies in mothers with anterior placentas were likely to take up the OP or occipital position, i.e. babies facing towards the mother's front instead of back. The OP also poses potential complications during delivery.

Even though these are potential complications, timely visits to the doctor, ultrasounds and MRI scans can be used to diagnose the conditions that cause these complications well ahead of the delivery. So you don't need to be too worried about it.

Is It Possible To Have Normal Delivery With An Anterior Placenta?

It is possible to have a normal delivery with an anterior placenta, although that may not be the case always. Because of the aforementioned complications, in some cases, a C section might be inevitable. If your anterior placenta has not covered the opening of the cervix, then a C section can be avoided in favour of a normal vaginal delivery.

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What Are The Precautions One Can Take?

The best precaution you can take is going to the doctor for regular checkups to monitor every step of the pregnancy. In most cases, an anterior placenta is not a cause for concern, although if you're too worried about it, talk to your doctor. Throughout the course of the pregnancy, eating well, drinking ample fluids and exercising will keep you as well as the baby healthy. More importantly, avoid stress and alcohol and maintain a balanced diet.

Read more about: placenta baby
Story first published: Monday, November 19, 2018, 13:00 [IST]
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