What It Means to Have an Anterior Placenta

How it affects pregnancy, labor, and delivery

The placenta is super important to the health of a mom and baby during pregnancy. But, most expecting moms don't know too much about it. So, if you find out you have an anterior placenta, you may wonder what that means. Here’s what you need to know about an anterior placenta and how it affects your pregnancy and delivery. 

Anterior placenta pregnancy
Verywell / Alexandra Gordon 

The Placenta

The placenta is an organ that begins developing when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. It is fully formed and functioning by twelve weeks but continues to grow throughout pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones to maintain your pregnancy, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), progesterone, and estrogen. 

The placenta connects you and your baby through the umbilical cord. Together, the placenta and umbilical cord bring oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and immune protection to your baby.

Medications, viruses, and other substances can pass to your baby, too. The placenta also takes waste away from your baby.

After your baby is born, the placenta separates from you and exits your body as the afterbirth. If you have a c-section, your doctor removes the placenta after the baby is delivered.  

Placenta Location

Since the placenta develops where the fertilized egg implants, it can grow in the following places:  

  • Fundal: The top of the uterus 
  • Lateral: The right or left side of the uterus
  • Posterior: The back of the uterus toward the back of your body and your spine.
  • Anterior: The front of the uterus toward the front of your body and your stomach.
  • Low-lying: At the bottom of the uterus

The placenta can also develop in between these areas such as toward the top and back, the top and side, or the bottom and front, and so forth.

The most common site of implantation and where the placenta is most likely to grow is toward the top and back of the uterus. An anterior placenta is less common, but it may be seen in up to half of all pregnant women, especially during early ultrasound scans. 

Diagnosis

Doctors can see the position of the placenta during an ultrasound. Your doctor will check your placenta when you have your level two mid-pregnancy ultrasound or anatomy scan at approximately 20 weeks. If you have an ultrasound earlier in your pregnancy, you may find out about an anterior placenta sooner. However, if you have an anterior or even a low-lying placenta on an early ultrasound, it doesn’t mean that is where the placenta will stay. It is not uncommon for the position of the placenta to change as the uterus stretches and grows. An anterior placenta can move toward the top, sides, or back of the uterus as the weeks go on. 

An Anterior Placenta

An anterior placenta may be a little less common, but it’s still normal. Having an anterior placenta doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, your pregnancy, or your baby. Despite that, there are a few things that make having an anterior placenta a little different. 

When the placenta is in front of the baby, it may: 

  • Take longer to feel the baby kick.
  • Take the doctor a little more time to find the heartbeat or the baby during check-ups.
  • Be more difficult to have prenatal tests such as an amniocentesis.

Feeling the Baby Kick

Expecting moms may feel their baby kick by 18 weeks. It may be sooner for moms who have already had a baby, but for first-time moms and those with an anterior placenta, it could take longer.  

An anterior placenta is like an extra layer between your baby and the outer wall of your belly. This cushioning may make it more difficult to feel your baby kicking, and it may take a little longer to recognize the softer, more muted thumps. Of course, once your baby gets bigger and stronger in the third trimester, you should feel the movements and kicks better. 

Monitoring Your Baby's Movement

Feeling your baby move is not only exciting, but it's reassuring. It lets you and your health care team know that your baby is doing well. By the start of the third trimester, the baby is big enough and usually has a more predictable activity pattern, so you can start to keep track of the movements you feel. Your doctor may also have you do daily kick counts at home. 

When you do a kick count, you check for kicks but also rolls, bumps, and other activity. You typically monitor this movement by timing how long it takes to feel ten actions. There should be at least ten movements in two hours.

To help you feel your baby's movements better, you can: 

  • Eat a snack or have some juice. 
  • Lie down or sit comfortably.
  • Concentrate on feeling movements on the sides of your belly and down low in your pelvis.
  • Learn your baby's pattern of sleep, wake, and active times. 

With an anterior placenta, you may have to pay more attention to your baby's movement, and you shouldn't automatically think you don't feel anything or you feel less because of an anterior placenta. You should contact the doctor if: 

Prenatal Exams and Tests

Depending on the exact location of the placenta, your doctor may find some prenatal examination and tests more challenging.

Finding the Heartbeat

During routine prenatal exams, doctors find and listen to the baby’s heart with a fetal doppler. It can be a little more difficult to hear the heartbeat when it’s behind the placenta. 

Feeling the Baby

Doctors and midwives use their hands to feel the baby’s position and size through your abdomen. But, an anterior placenta is like a little barrier that can make determining the size and position a bit tougher. 

Having an Amniocentesis

An amniocentesis is a prenatal test that examines the amniotic fluid. To get a sample, the doctor places a needle through the abdomen. If the placenta is along the front wall of the belly, it can be in the way. 

Complications

In general, having an anterior placenta does not put you at any higher risk of having pregnancy or delivery complication than any other placenta position. 

The following complications can happen in any pregnancy and are rare, but some studies show that an anterior placenta may lead to a slightly higher chance of: 

When to Call the Doctor

An anterior placenta usually doesn’t cause any problems for you or your baby during your pregnancy. However, you should call the doctor if:

Low-Lying Placenta and Placenta Previa

If an anterior placenta is growing low in the uterus, it could partially or fully cover the cervix. Many times, a low-lying placenta moves up and away from the cervix as your uterus grows. But, if it remains low, it can lead to a pregnancy complication called placenta previa

Placenta previa means the placenta is blocking the baby's way out of the uterus. It can cause bleeding during pregnancy, and it's dangerous during delivery. If the placenta is still low and covering the cervix at the time of delivery, the baby will be delivered by c-section. 

Labor and Delivery

Most of the time, having an anterior placenta will not affect your labor and delivery at all. As long as your placenta is not low, and you do not have any pregnancy concerns, you can have a vaginal birth and follow your birth plan

It's the same with a c-section. An anterior placenta is not an issue unless the placenta is low. A low-lying anterior placenta could be in the area where a typical c-section incision is made. In that case, the doctor will do an ultrasound to find the safest place to make the incision and deliver the baby. 

Staying Healthy 

If you have an anterior placenta, you don’t have to do anything differently to stay healthy than if your placenta is in any other position. With any placenta position you should:

  • See your doctor for your regularly scheduled prenatal appointments and testing.
  • Manage any health conditions that could lead to pregnancy and placenta complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs. 
  • Avoid injury to your belly from high-risk physical activity.
  • Always wear your seatbelt in the car.

A Word From Verywell

If you have an anterior placenta, it shouldn’t make much of difference to you or your baby. The placenta can do its job, whether it’s on the top, side, front, or back of the uterus. You may have to wait a little longer to feel your baby’s first kicks, and they may not feel as strong as if you had a posterior placenta, but overall you can have a normal, healthy pregnancy with an anterior placenta.

Complications are unlikely, but to be sure everything is going smoothly with your pregnancy, you should see your doctor for regular prenatal care. Your doctor can also answer any questions you may have and help ease your concerns about having an anterior placenta.

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Article Sources

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