Before pregnancy, you could probably count on one hand the number of times you said the word “placenta.” Once you’re pregnant, the placenta becomes an organ about which you and your healthcare providers will have countless conversations. The placenta gives your baby oxygen and needed nourishment. And while it’s affixed to the wall of the uterus, it can take different positions: It can position itself on the sides, the back, or the front. The placenta can also sit at the top or bottom of the uterus. When your placenta sits at the front of your uterus, it’s called an anterior placenta. And, in general, an anterior placenta is nothing to be alarmed about.
What Is An Anterior Placenta?
A placenta that makes itself at home on the front wall of the uterus is called an anterior placenta. If it’s on the back wall of the uterus, it’s posterior; at the top of the uterus, it’s fundal, explains Donna Neale, M.D., assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Any one of these locations is fine,” Neale tells Romper.
Should I Be Worried About An Anterior Placenta?
Not necessarily. “In terms of risks to the pregnancy, the ‘ideal’ place for the placenta can be any of these locations,” Neale explains, “as long as it is also not covering the cervix, which we call a placenta previa, or close to the cervix, which we call a low lying placenta.” Placenta previa often needs monitoring, as it can result in the placenta blocking the baby’s way out, and might necessitate a C-section delivery.
Don’t assume an anterior placenta is a potential indicator of placenta previa, though. “Placenta previas or low lying placentas are not unique to an anterior placenta. They can occur with posterior placentas too,” Neale says.
While having an anterior placenta does not carry increased risks to the pregnancy, says Neale, one circumstance that could potentially prove it riskier is if the parent needs a cesarean delivery and the placenta is in the lower uterine segment of the uterus, which is the part of the uterus where the incision for a cesarean section is made, Neale says. “Depending on how low the anterior placenta is within the uterus, the surgeon may have to cut thru the placenta to get to the baby at the time of delivery.”
What Should I Do If I Have An Anterior Placenta?
As long as you don't also have a placenta previa, then there are no special precautions you need to take during your pregnancy, says Neale. As with any pregnancy, and any placenta placement, a precaution should be to avoid trauma, says Diana Ramos, M.D., OB-GYN and assistant adjunct clinical professor at Keck USC School of Medicine. For example, be super mindful of toddlers running around, and take care to prevent them from potentially running into your belly, or falling and hitting your abdomen, Ramos says. “In general, these are low risk, but absolutely seeking care on labor and delivery is advised.”
Keep in mind, though, that an anterior placenta might have an impact on how you feel as your baby grows within your body. “Some women with an anterior placenta will report feeling less fetal movement, particularly early in pregnancy, because the anterior placenta essentially mutes out the fetal movement,” Neale says. Just how does that work? Well, you can think of the placenta as a pillow between the baby and your skin, says Ramos. “Fetal movement may be felt “less”, especially in first-time pregnant people that may not be sure what to expect in terms of fetal movements.” If you have an anterior placenta, you might feel fetal movements lower in your abdomen, says Ramos. As a pregnancy progresses and the fetal movements become stronger, most women will feel just as much fetal movement as women with a posterior placenta, says Neale.
The bottom line? This placenta position alone shouldn’t cause you additional worries. Though always discuss it with your caregivers to make sure there are no potential complications. “As long as the placenta is not too close to the cervix or covers the cervix, then there are no increased risks to the mother or the fetus during the pregnancy or during delivery,” says Neale.
Donna Neale, M.D., assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Diana Ramos, M..D, OB-GYN and assistant adjunct clinical professor Keck USC School of Medicine
Rathbun, K.M., Hildebrand, J.P. Placenta Abnormalities. StatPearls Publishing. 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29083591/
Hong, D.H., Kim, E., Kyeong, K.S., Hong, S.H., Jeong, E.H. Safety of Cesarean Delivery Through Placental Incision in Patients with Anterior Placenta Previa. Obstetrics & Gynecology Science. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4796079/#:~:text=Conclusion,considered%20a%20safe%20surgical%20technique