The placenta may attach itself in any of the following positions:
- posterior (at the back of the uterus)
- anterior (at the front of the uterus)
- on the side of the uterus
- fundal (at the top of the uterus)
- low-lying (at the bottom of the uterus and sometimes even over the cervix)
An anterior placenta generally does not affect the pregnancy or health of the fetus. However, it may change how a woman has medical checkups and sometimes increases certain risks. Learn more in this article.
What is an anterior placenta?
The placenta is an organ that grows in the uterus during pregnancy to nourish the baby with oxygen and nutrients via the umbilical cord. The placenta attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. Anterior placenta is the medical term for a placenta that connects to the front of the uterus.
An anterior placenta will sit between the front of the stomach and the fetus.
Most of the time, a fertilized egg will implant on the back of the uterine wall. When this happens, the placenta generally forms along that wall as well. Doctors refer to this as a posterior placenta.
Sometimes, having an anterior placenta may make it harder for a woman to feel fetal movements. In some cases, it can make it more challenging for an obstetrician to detect a fetal heartbeat.
Does it affect pregnancy?
Generally, the positioning of the placenta does not affect the pregnancy or the fetus unless the placenta blocks the cervix, which is called placenta previa.
A woman with placenta previa may need to stay in the hospital for monitoring, and she is likely to need to give birth via cesarean delivery.
However, an anterior placenta is not likely to affect the pregnancy or its management. The differences in a pregnancy with an anterior placenta are minor. Having an anterior placenta is quite common.
Due to the position of the placenta in front of the baby, a woman with an anterior placenta may not feel fetal movement as strongly as a woman with a posterior placenta, particularly earlier in pregnancy when the fetus is smaller.
In cases where a woman needs an amniocentesis, an anterior placenta may make it slightly more difficult for a doctor to carry out the test.
An amniocentesis is a procedure that takes a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. A doctor will analyze the fluid for signs of any abnormalities.
They will perform this test by inserting a needle into the uterus via the woman’s abdomen. The location of an anterior placenta at the front of the uterus may make this more challenging.
A doctor will use an ultrasound to diagnose an anterior placenta.
A doctor can determine the placement of the placenta using an ultrasound, which usually occurs between 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.
During this ultrasound, a doctor will examine the fetus and placenta for any abnormalities.
Sometimes, they may recommend additional ultrasounds closer to the delivery date to check the location of the placenta and ensure that it is not covering the cervix.
Although an anterior placenta is not usually a cause for concern, some studies have shown that the placement of a placenta could affect the outcome of the pregnancy.
One study indicated that women with an anterior placenta might have an increased risk of the following complications:
- pregnancy-induced hypertension
- intrauterine growth restriction
- gestational diabetes
- placental abruption
- intrauterine fetal death
There is also some evidence to suggest that women with an anterior placenta have a higher risk of problems after the baby is born.
The placenta can also migrate during pregnancy, meaning that it starts growing in another direction. An anterior placenta may migrate upward and attach itself to the top of the uterus where many of the bigger blood vessels are present.
When to see a doctor
All pregnant women should see a doctor regularly throughout their pregnancy. While an anterior placenta will not usually cause any issues, other symptoms can indicate a problem with the placenta.
A woman should call her doctor immediately if she notices any of the following symptoms:
- vaginal bleeding
- fast or constant contractions
- severe back pain
- abdominal pain
- decreased fetal movement
- firmness in the uterus
The symptoms of a placental problem tend to begin suddenly, and they are often severe.
An anterior placenta occurs when the placenta grows in the front of the uterine wall. An anterior placenta is not typically a cause for concern. Most of the time, it does not affect the outcome or management of a pregnancy.
It may, however, make it more difficult for a woman to feel fetal movements or for a doctor to find the fetus’s heartbeat.
A woman should consult her doctor regarding any concerns about the pregnancy or signs of problems relating to the placenta. Regular prenatal care can help prevent or manage potential complications.