Anterior Placenta: What Are The Benefits, Risks, And Delivery Options?

What To Know About Having An Anterior Placenta, Including Risks And Birth Options

April 16, 2021 Updated July 9, 2021

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Jamie Coupaud/Unsplash

When the time comes for your regular ultrasound appointments during pregnancy, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions. On the one hand, you can’t wait for the opportunity to see your baby — even if it looks like an alien blob bean. It’s exciting to see the little nugget squirm around in there, and put a tiny, blurry face to the creature that enjoys giving you all kinds of pregnancy symptoms like painful heartburn and food aversions. On the other hand, you might also feel apprehensive of the unknown. During an ultrasound, it’s not as if the fetus has time to tidy up the placenta or hide anything that could look off. What you see is what you get. And sometimes, what you see is an anterior placenta. Here’s what that means for you and your baby.

What does it mean to have an anterior placenta?

Having an anterior placenta means that it is positioned at the front of the uterus, close to the front of your abdominal wall. The placenta forms wherever the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, which usually happens to be on the top side of the uterus, but not always. Anterior placement of the placenta is relatively common — and usually, nothing to worry about. Also, a placenta might move around within the uterus during the pregnancy, so just because you have an anterior placenta at the beginning doesn’t mean it will stay here the whole time.

Usually, it’s not possible to tell if a person has an anterior placenta simply by their exterior belly shape. In most cases, a pregnant person finds out that they have an anterior placenta during their 20-week scan, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What do the different grades of an anterior placenta mean?

Regardless of what it sounds like, placental grading does not involve giving your fetus pop quizzes and then grading them to measure their neurological development. Basically, it’s the standard classification for how a placenta is maturing during pregnancy, taking into account calcification and gestational age, according to a 2011 study. Here are the grades, broken down by gestational age:

  • Grade 0: less than 18 weeks (This is the inception of the pregnancy.)
  • Grade 1: 18 to 29 weeks (The placenta is in the upper part of the womb at this stage, but part of it has also stretched to the lower part of the stomach.)
  • Grade 2: 30-39 weeks (This means the placenta has extended to the cervix but isn’t covering it completely.)
  • Grade 3: beyond 39 weeks (At stage three, the placenta only covers part of the cervix.)

What are the risks of an anterior placenta?

While the condition is usually nothing you should stress about, there really aren’t any benefits of having an anterior placenta. There are, however, several risks. According to a 2013 study and a 2015 study, people with an anterior placenta may have an elevated risk of:

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Gestational diabetes mellitus
  • Placental abruption
  • Back labor
  • C-section
  • Intrauterine growth restriction
  • Induction of labor
  • Placenta previa
  • Post-postpartum complications

Is it harder to feel the baby move with an anterior placenta?

Because of its placement in the uterus, an anterior placenta can make it more difficult to feel it when your baby kicks. During most pregnancies, a person usually starts to feel the baby kicking and moving around in there between 18 and 24 weeks. But according to Verywell Health, it typically takes longer for a person with an anterior placenta to feel that movement, and even once the fetus has gotten bigger (and therefore, has a mightier kick), the movement still might feel muted, compared to other placental positions.

Is normal delivery possible with an anterior placenta?

Yes! In fact, in most cases, having an anterior placenta doesn’t impact labor or delivery. It’s possible to have a vaginal delivery unless the placenta is covering the cervix, which could potentially lead to complications, Verywell Health reports. Cesarean sections are also typically an option, unless the anterior placenta is lower down in the uterus, where the surgical incision for the procedure typically happens. If that’s the case, your doctor will use an ultrasound to find the best place to go in.

Does having an anterior placenta mean you’re more likely to have a baby of a particular gender?

Along with all of the other folk medicine techniques used to (let’s be honest) guess a baby’s biological sex, there’s one that says that having an anterior placenta means you’re more likely to give birth to a girl. But, as you can imagine, there’s not the empirical evidence to back that up.

In a 2014 study, scientists found that in more than 70 percent of the pregnancies with girls, the mothers had anterior placentas. However, more research was needed to confirm that this condition directly correlated to the gender of babies. So, anterior placentas do not mean you’re having a girl, but to learn the gender of your baby, the most accurate way to do it is through an ultrasound or blood test. 

How can I sleep with anterior placenta?

When you have an anterior placenta, the best sleeping position is on your left side with your knees bent. This allows baby to get the best nourishment. It puts less pressure on the liver, which helps nutrients get to the fetus. One study even found that the way mothers sleep during conception affects where the placenta implants itself.