At your last prenatal check-up, your doctor or midwife may have discovered you have an anterior placenta. Your first questions may have been:
What does an anterior placenta mean?
Or: why me?
While one study found that anterior placentas could be caused by blood type (O-positive women are more likely to have anterior placentas), another found that your sleep position during conception may have something to do with it.
But you’re probably wondering an anterior placenta means for your natural birth plan. Read on to learn more about what having an anterior placenta means for you and your baby.
What Is an Anterior Placenta?
The placenta (the organ that nourishes baby through pregnancy) typically attaches to the uterus in the back (posterior) of the uterus, though it can attach anywhere, including the sides, top, bottom (also known as placenta previa) and the front (anterior). So an anterior placenta is a placenta that has attached to the front of the uterus. It is diagnosed during an ultrasound.
How Does Anterior Placenta Affect Your Pregnancy?
Though having an anterior placenta isn’t a problem for the most part, there are some things that can be a bit… annoying. An anterior placenta can make those little things that help connect you with your baby in utero harder to uncover. Here are some of the things that can be more difficult with an anterior placenta:
It Takes Longer to Hear Baby’s Heartbeat
If you’re concerned about risks associated with doppler ultrasound (used to find baby’s heartbeat in the second trimester), you may have decided to wait until a fetoscope could be used. A fetoscope is like a stethoscope but is used to hear fetal heart tones. You usually have to wait until 18-20 weeks to hear a heart tone for the first time. But with an anterior placenta, it may be even longer because the placenta is between the fetoscope and the baby.
Even with a handheld doppler, it may be difficult to hear baby’s heartbeat in the early part of the second trimester.
It Takes Longer to Feel Kicks
In general, women with anterior placentas will feel baby kick later than those with posterior placentas. They may even feel more muted movement, though many feel plenty of movement on the sides, top, and on the bladder!
It Can Be Hard to Know Baby’s Position
Many natural mamas find belly mapping to be a useful tool to bond with baby, to be keenly aware of baby’s position, and to be able to take steps to change the baby’s position if needed. With an anterior placenta, it may be difficult to tell where exactly the baby is because the placenta cushions any movements in the front.
Will an Anterior Placenta Affect My Natural Birth Plan?
For the most part, having an anterior placenta will have no affect on your natural birth. However, there does seem to be a correlation between anterior placentas and babies in occipital posterior (OP) positioning, meaning baby’s face is pointed toward mom’s front instead of toward her back, called occipital anterior (OA).
A study found that babies in an OP position during labor were significantly more likely to have an anterior placenta. Some midwives believe that babies with an anterior placenta are more comfortable in an OP position and that’s why that correlation exists. In any case, an OP presenting baby is not an emergency but could cause back labor or a slightly longer, more difficult labor. In some cases an OP presentation may require more interventions like a c-section.
Another possible complication is that anterior placentas may grow down toward the cervix instead of up, potentially causing placenta previa.
But the most common possibility is that the baby is born without any problems at all. In, fact many women never even know about, or notice, their anterior placenta because it never causes any concerns.
Will an Anterior Placenta Change Through Pregnancy?
Though the placenta does migrate as the uterus grows, it’s not going to move so much that it’s no longer anterior. The migration is more of an upward one, so a placenta that is near the cervix early in the pregnancy is likely to move to a safer place before delivery.
What’s a Natural Mama to Do?
Having an anterior placenta is usually nothing to worry about, but if you’re concerned about some of the possible issues we’ve discussed here, there are some things you can do:
- Choose a handheld doppler instead of a fetoscope to hear baby’s heartbeat, and remain calm if it takes a while to find it. It may take a few extra weeks to hear the heartbeat.
- Try belly mapping. It may be more difficult to do, but if you can figure it out, you’ll be happy to see that your baby is indeed in OA position. Even if the baby is facing a different way, you can try some exercises for moving him or her into a better position.
- If you’re trying to conceive, one study found that sleeping on your back was the best way to get a posterior placenta.
- Keep a positive mindset. If there’s ever a time in your life to believe in the power of positive pregnancy affirmations — it’s during pregnancy and labor! Be prepared, of course, but expect the best, too.
How about you?
Did you have an anterior placenta? Did it affect your birth at all?