Anterior placenta: Everything you need to know
By Jenna Fletcher     

Reviewed by Valinda Riggins Nwadike
What is it? | Effect | Diagnosis | Complications | Seeing a doctor | Summary
The placenta is an organ that
grows in the uterus during pregnancy to supply the fetus with oxygen and
nutrients. An anterior placenta is one that attaches to the front of the
uterus.
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.
Diagnosis

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.
Complications
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.
Summary
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.

SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.