What Is an Anterior Placenta?

The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy and is essential for a healthy pregnancy. It attaches to the wall of the uterus and transports everything your baby needs to grow through the umbilical cord.

When the placenta attaches to the front of your uterus, it is called an anterior placenta. This does not put you or the baby at any extra risk.

a pregnant woman holding an ultrasound scan result

 Karl Tapales / Getty Images

Diagnosis

A standard ultrasound is typically performed at 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy and can detect an anterior placenta.

Ultrasounds completed in the first trimester are not considered standard because it is too early in the pregnancy to see the full details of how the fetus is developing.

Standard ultrasounds provide information such as:

  • Size estimation, position, movement, and heart rate of the fetus
  • Amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus
  • Number of fetuses
  • Position of the placenta

Placenta Locations

From a standard ultrasound, your doctor will be able to tell you where the placenta is located. It can attach to any part of the uterus, and it may shift during pregnancy as the uterus and infant grow.

The names for the locations in which the placenta can be found include:

  • Anterior: Front of the uterus (toward the front of your body)
  • Posterior: Back of the uterus (toward the back of your body)
  • Fundal: Top of the uterus
  • Low-lying: Bottom of the uterus; can sometimes partially or fully cover the cervix
  • Lateral: Left or right side of the uterus

The most common locations for the placenta to attach tend to be either toward the top or the back of the uterus. It's believed that it attaches to the top and back of the uterus more often because there are more blood vessels in those areas, making it easier for it to transport nutrients.

An anterior placenta is also a common location for it to attach. It isn’t a reason to worry, but it can create a few differences in the experience of your pregnancy compared to other placenta locations.

Anterior Placenta vs. Other Placements

Having the placenta at the front of your uterus doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your pregnancy. It can change your experience at a few stages of your pregnancy, including:

  • Feeling fetal movement
  • Your view during exams and tests

Feeling Fetal Movement

When you start to feel your baby kick can vary based on:

  • Where the baby is in the uterus
  • The size of the baby
  • If you have previously had a baby

Most times, women are expected to begin feeling fetal movement between 18 and 24 weeks.

For first-time parents, it can take longer to recognize the movements of the fetus compared to women who have been pregnant before, since they know what the kicks feel like.

The location of the fetus and the placenta location can also reflect when you start to feel kicks. With an anterior placenta placement, it can take longer to feel these movements because placement provides a little extra cushion and makes it more difficult to recognize.

Often with an anterior placenta, it's later on in the pregnancy, when the baby is larger, that you will begin to feel kicks.

Your View During Exams and Tests

Fetal Doppler

A fetal doppler is a test using sound waves to check your baby’s heartbeat. With the placenta at the front of your uterus, the test can take a little bit longer than with other placenta locations.

Your doctor may need to spend more time searching for your baby's heartbeat because the sound waves can be muffled by the placenta.

Physical Exams

Physical exams are completed during the final trimester by your doctor feeling your abdomen for the position your baby is in.

With an anterior placenta, the extra cushioning can make it a little bit more difficult for your doctor to identify the position and the different body parts of your baby.

Amniocentesis

An amniocentesis is a procedure that removes amniotic fluid from the uterus test for testing or treatments.

An anterior placenta can make this procedure a little bit more complicated because the test may need to pass through the placenta. It may take more attempts or lead to some blood in the fluid. It is not associated with an increased risk for miscarriage in amniocentesis.

Labor and Delivery

Having an anterior placenta usually doesn’t affect labor and delivery. You will likely still be able to have a vaginal delivery, as long as the placenta is not blocking the cervix and you do not have any pregnancy complications.

Anterior Placenta and C-Sections

If you are having a cesarean section, a low-lying anterior placenta could make it more complicated because the placenta may be where the incision would normally be.

Some research shows that avoiding cutting into an anterior placement reduced the risk for mothers needing a blood transfusion—which is used to replace lost blood—following a C-section.

If you need a C-section and have an anterior placenta, your doctor will be able to use an ultrasound to determine the safest location for the incision.

Complications

Some research suggests that an anterior placenta location could make it more likely to experience one of these pregnancy complications:

When to See a Doctor

An anterior placenta doesn’t usually cause complications during pregnancy, and you can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy with an anterior placenta.

With all pregnancies and placenta locations, you should call your doctor if you experience:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Severe back pain
  • Pain, tightening, and cramping in the stomach
  • Uterine contractions

A Word From Verywell

The placenta is a vital part of a healthy pregnancy, and it can nourish your baby from any spot in your uterus. With an anterior placenta, you are just as likely to have a healthy pregnancy as any other placenta location. You may not feel your baby’s kicks as earlier or as strong, but other complications are rare.

Follow up regularly with your doctor for normal prenatal care to be sure that you are having a healthy pregnancy. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your provider to answer your questions and monitor the health of you and your baby.

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Article Sources
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