What It Means to Have an Anterior Placenta

How It Affects Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery

The placenta is vital to the health of both mom and baby during pregnancy. This organ supplies nutrients, hormones, immunity, and oxygen to the fetus. However, many expecting moms don't know much about it. So, if you find out you have an anterior placenta, you may wonder what that means.

But don't worry, having an anterior placenta does not negatively impact the health of your baby. 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 

Overview

The placenta is an organ that begins developing when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. It's unique in that it's only present during pregnancy. It is fully formed and functioning by 12 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 from your body to your baby's.

In addition, medications, viruses, and other substances can pass to your baby via the placenta. This organ also takes waste away from your baby.

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

Placental Location

An anterior placement of the placenta is relatively common and not a cause for concern. Most often, the placenta develops wherever the fertilized egg implants, and it can grow anywhere in the uterus. These are the technical names of the various general locations where placentas are found:  

  • 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, sometimes covering the cervix

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

Common Placement

The most common site of implantation and placenta location is toward the top and back of the uterus. By the end of pregnancy, an anterior placenta is less common, but it may be seen at some point in a quarter to a half of all pregnant women, particularly during early ultrasound scans. 

It is unclear why various placental locations occur but it is speculated that the placenta tends to favor growing toward the top and back of the uterus to increase access to those blood vessel-rich areas.

Diagnosis

Doctors can see the position of the placenta during an ultrasound. Your doctor will check your placental placement when you have your level two mid-pregnancy ultrasound or anatomy scan around 20 weeks.

If you have an ultrasound earlier in your pregnancy, you may find out about an anterior placenta sooner. However, having an anterior or even a low-lying placenta on an early ultrasound doesn’t mean that is where the placenta will stay.

It is very common for the position of the placenta to change as the uterus stretches and grows. An anterior placenta can migrate toward the top, sides, or back of the uterus as the weeks go on.

How an Anterior Placenta Is Different

Having an anterior placenta doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, your pregnancy, or your baby. Still, there are a few things that make having an anterior placenta a little different from other locations. 

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

  • Take a little longer to feel the baby kick
  • Take the doctor a little more time to find the heartbeat or the baby during prenatal visits
  • Make certain prenatal tests, such as an amniocentesis, slightly more complex (but does not increase the risk of miscarriage in amniocentesis)

Fetal Movement

Expecting moms can begin to feel their baby kick as early as 18 weeks and as late as 24 weeks. This may happen sooner for moms who have already had a baby due to familiarity with how these flutters feel and a more stretched out abdomen. For first-time moms and those with an anterior placenta, it often takes longer to recognize these movements.  

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 until the third trimester when your baby is big enough to make more noticeable movements. 

Monitoring Your Baby's Movement

Feeling your baby move is not only exciting, but it's reassuring. It lets you and your healthcare team know that your baby is doing well. However, remember that most often, everything is fine, and excessive worrying about tracking your baby's movements can also become an unnecessary source of stress.

By the start of the third trimester, the baby usually has a more predictable activity pattern, so you can start to keep track of the movements you feel. Some doctors may also have you do daily kick counts at home. 

Performing Kick Counts

When you do a kick count, you check for kicks but also rolls, bumps, and other activities. You typically monitor this movement by timing how long it takes to feel 10 actions. In most cases, there should be at least 10 movements in two hours. If you don't feel any kicks or flutters, it could be that your baby is sleeping.

You're also less likely to feel movements while you are active, which is distracting to you and may lull your baby to sleep. To help you feel your baby's movements better, try: 

  • Lying down or sit comfortably
  • Eating a snack or having some juice (This boost of energy can help make your baby more active.)
  • Concentrating on feeling movements on the sides of your belly and down low in your pelvis
  • Learning your baby's typical pattern of sleep, wake, and active times 

With an anterior placenta, you may have to pay more attention to your baby's movement to feel them, but you should still be able to feel your baby squirming around. You should contact your doctor if: 

Prenatal Exams and Tests

Depending on the exact location of your placenta, your doctor may find some prenatal tests more challenging. Don't be alarmed if these procedures take extra time or effort at your appointments.

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, so expect it to take your doctor or midwife a bit longer to find it.

Feeling the Baby

Doctors and midwives use their hands to feel the baby’s position and size through your abdomen. An anterior placenta acts like a barrier that can make determining the size and position of the baby a bit tougher. However, while it might take a little extra effort, your health care providers can still feel the baby beneath an anterior placenta.

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. This poses an inconvenience but your medical professional will have strategies for working around your anterior placenta. 

Complications

In general, having an anterior placenta does not put you at a greater risk of having pregnancy or delivery complications than any other placental position. 

The below complications can happen in any pregnancy, but some studies show that those with an anterior placenta may be at a slightly higher chance of the following: 

When to Call the Doctor

An anterior placenta is unlikely to cause any specific problems for you or your baby during your pregnancy. However, as is the case in all pregnancies, 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. If it remains low, it can lead to a relatively rare pregnancy complication called placenta previa, which affects about 1 in 200 pregnancies. However, in nearly 90% of pregnancies with identified low-lying placentas, the placentas migrate up and away from the cervix before childbirth.

In cases where the placenta remains in front of the cervix (placenta previa), the placenta is blocking the baby's way out of the uterus. This 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 Anterior Placenta 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 likely have a vaginal birth and follow your birth plan. However, some studies do suggest that those with an anterior placenta may be at greater risk of back labor, which is intense back pain during childbirth.

An anterior placenta is also not an issue with c-section deliveries 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 during your pregnancy. With any placental 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, obesity, 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

The placenta can do its job supporting your growing baby 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're still likely to have a routine, healthy pregnancy with an anterior placenta.

Complications are rare, but to be sure everything is going smoothly with your pregnancy, see your doctor for regular prenatal care. Your doctor can also answer any other questions or concerns you may have.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy. Updated April 2018.

  2. KidsHealth from Nemours. Cesarean Sections (C-Sections). February 2017.

  3. Kim SM, Kim JS. A review of mechanisms of implantation. Dev Reprod. 2017;21(4):351-359. doi:10.12717/DR.2017.21.4.351

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ultrasound Exams. June 2017.

  5. Linde A, Georgsson S, Pettersson K, Holmström S, Norberg E, Rådestad I. Fetal movement in late pregnancy - a content analysis of women's experiences of how their unborn baby moved less or differently. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16(1):127.  doi:10.1186/s12884-016-0922-z

  6. Connolly KA, Eddleman KA. Amniocentesis: A contemporary review. World J Obstet Gynecol. 2016;(5)1:58-65. doi:10.5317/wjog.v5.i1.58

  7. Mohr Sasson A, Tsur A, Kalter A, Weissmann Brenner A, Gindes L, Weisz B. Reduced fetal movement: Factors affecting maternal perception. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016;29(8):1318-21. doi:10.3109/14767058.2015.1047335

  8. Fadl S, Moshiri M, Fligner CL, Katz DS, Dighe M. Placental imaging: Normal appearance with review of pathologic findings. Radiographics. 2017;37(3):979-998. doi:10.1148/rg.2017160155

  9. Torricelli M, Vannuccini S, Moncini I, et al. Anterior placental location influences onset and progress of labor and postpartum outcome. Placenta. 2015;36(4):463-6. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.12.018

  10. American Academy of Family Physicians. Back pain during pregnancy.

  11. Anderson-Bagga FM, Sze A. Placenta Previa. StatPearls Publishing, LLC. Updated June 4, 2019.

  12. Tai M, Piskorski A, Kao JC, Hess LA, de la Monte SM, Gündoğan F. Placental morphology in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Alcohol Alcohol. 2017;52(2):138-144. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agw088

Additional Reading
  • Benirschke K, Burton GJ, Baergen RN. Pathology of the Human Placenta. Springer; 2012.

  • Bienstock JL, Fox HE, Wallach EE, Johnson CT, Hallock JL. Johns Hopkins Manual of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

  • Guttmacher AE, Maddox YT, Spong CY. The Human Placenta Project: Placental structure, development, and function in real time. Placenta. 2014;35(5):303-4. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.02.012

  • Kay H, Nelson DM, Wang Y. The Placenta, From Development to Disease. Wiley-Blackwell; 2011.

  • Zia S. Placental location and pregnancy outcome. Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association. 2013;14(4):190-3. doi:10.5152/jtgga.2013.92609