What to know if you have an anterior placenta

Before we get into all the things you need to know, I have a few important points to share, as well as a quick story from one of my clients! (shared with permission).

Having an anterior placenta is a variation of normal, but the most important thing I want to immediately mention: fetal movement and potentially not being able to feel your developing baby. Time for a quick personal story on this!

I supported a scheduled induction birth in September of 2020. This client first contacted me on August 28th, 2020. That same day, my client had completed her FIRST, positive at-home pregnancy test. She and her partner’s pregnancy was a total surprise. A couple of days after 8/28, we found out she was nearly 40 weeks along!! How does something like this happen?

This client had a history of not having a regular monthly bleed. In fact, sometimes she would go months without bleeding and only have PMS symptoms. Because of this, in addition to being diagnosed with an anterior placenta, they were shocked to find out she was so far along. And my goodness, so was I!

After discussion with her care providers and her partner, they moved forward with induction and had a beautiful, successful vaginal birth on September 23, 2020.

So what is a placenta?

  • The placenta is an organ that your body grows in addition to and separate from the baby. It attaches to the wall of your uterus and provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby via an umbilical cord (the umbilical cord is what creates your baby’s belly button!), and after you’ve birthed your baby, your body expels the placenta, since it doesn’t need one anymore. Can you believe your body makes an entire ORGAN to sustain the life of your little one, and then just discards it in the end?? So amazing!

What is an anterior placenta?

  • Anterior describes a location within your body. If you’ve ever heard the term “posterior,” in regards to anatomy, that means something is closer to the back side of your body. Anterior is the opposite – it’s closer to the front side of your body! So if you have an anterior placenta, it means the placement is toward the front of your uterus. You can envision it like a cushion on the front of your tummy.

Potential risks with an anterior placenta

Number one: not being able to feel the baby move

  • Expect that you won’t be able to feel early movements at all, until later in the second and third trimester
  • Remember that you basically have a cushion blocking your baby from being able to kick the front of your stomach (the largest surface area you are able to feel)

Higher chance of back pain throughout pregnancy and during labor

  • Here are some ways you can mitigate back pain!
    • Daily exercise like swimming, prenatal yoga, prenatal pilates, etc (with guidance from your care providers)
    • Be mindful of your posture, but avoid “rib thrusting” to aid in avoiding Diastasis Recti.
      • HERE is a YouTube video I found most helpful to describe what rib thrusting is.
      • And HERE is another video on rib-thrusting, demonstrating the best way to get up from laying down.
  • Massage therapy, prenatal chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture.

What to expect for certain screenings and diagnostic checks

  • If your initial workup shows a higher risk of Down’s Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities, you may be offered an amniocentesis test option. If you have an anterior placenta, this test is still possible and does not increase the risk of miscarriage, but it may be a little bit more complicated to complete the test with an anterior placenta.
    • This video can help explain how amniocentesis works!
  • Cervical exams can sometimes be more challenging with an anterior placenta
  • It may be more difficult for your care providers to find the fetal heartbeat using a doppler

Baby’s position in the womb with an anterior placenta

  • Increases the chance of your baby being in a back-to-back (occipitoposterior) position.
    • That’s when the baby’s head is down, but the back of their head and their back is against your spine.
  • You may have increased sensations during the contractions of labor
  • Potentially a longer labor

The final point I want to emphasize: this is a variation of NORMAL. To have an anterior placenta and the chance for a healthy, vaginal delivery is absolutely possible! I feel very passionate about this topic and want to normalize it, as well as dampen the fear surrounding it. <3 Doula Cema

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