When I was 18 weeks pregnant with twins, my OB excitedly asked me at a routine visit, “Are you feeling those babies move or any flutters yet?”
Extremely disappointed and a little concerned, I replied, “Nope, I still haven’t felt any movement from them yet.”
It was my second pregnancy after the one before it had ended in a first trimester missed miscarriage. According to all of the pregnancy books and countless internet articles I’d studied, I should’ve been feeling at least something from my growing babies at this point…. especially given the fact that there were two taking up space in my uterus.
I received an ultrasound at every doctor’s appointment I went to, resulting in over 60 ultrasound pictures by the end of my pregnancy. With each scan, thank the heavens, both of my babies were wiggling and moving about, offering me reassurance for another day or so. Still, this didn’t stop me from feeling robbed of what I’d initially anticipated for my pregnancy.
Week after week, I felt absolutely nothing except killer heartburn, extreme nausea, and debilitating fatigue — but no movement proving the magic of life was stirring around inside my wide belly.
I wondered what was wrong, why my doctor wasn’t figuring it out, and how I could be (at this point) over 20+ weeks pregnant without experiencing some small flicker of fetal movement while other pregnant mothers felt flutters near the end of their first trimester.
At 25 weeks pregnant, looking rounder than ever, a new ultrasound technician scanned me and asked if I was feeling fetal movement. I replied with the usual, “Nope, not really,” before she smiled and asked me plainly, “Has anyone told you that Baby B has an anterior placenta?”
“Baby A is closest to your cervix, but Baby B is positioned in front of Baby A, and her placenta is anterior. It’s sitting at the front of your stomach, and it’s more than likely acting as a padding to those movements you should be feeling,” she said.
Suddenly, it felt like a thousand pound weight had been lifted off of my chest. There was a reason I couldn’t feel the movements, and the reasoning had nothing to do with my well-being or the health of my babies. And wouldn’t you know… I felt my first, small movements from my babies that very week
After much research and talking it through with a different OB than the one I had previously been seeing, I learned that an anterior placenta is actually quite normal, though it can be worrisome to mothers not feeling as much fetal movement.
Typically, when a fertilized egg implants itself, it does so at the back of the uterus, thus leading the placenta to form in that same place as well (posterior placenta). However, sometimes the fertilized egg attaches to the front of the uterine wall and the placenta grows anteriorly, becoming a cushion that can impact the way a mother feels a baby’s (or in my case, babies’) movements from the outside of the belly.
That being said, no matter the placenta’s positioning, an OB should always be notified when a pregnant mother is experiencing decreased fetal movement or no fetal movement by 24 weeks.
Indiana mom of six Edith Runion also experienced an anterior placenta. After feeling movement at 14-15 weeks with her previous pregnancies, and having just experienced a miscarriage this year, Runion was living in fear when she wasn’t feeling kicks or movement from her current pregnancy at 18 weeks.
“I was terrified for weeks I was going to have another loss at my next appointment because I didn’t feel anything,” Runion, who is now 20 weeks pregnant, tells Scary Mommy.
Prior to the scan, she asked her friends about it, and some of them mentioned that her placenta might be in an anterior position. Since the placenta’s position wasn’t reliable during her early first trimester scan, Runion wasn’t informed that she had an anterior placenta until an ultrasound-tech mentioned it briefly at an 18-week anatomy scan.
“If I hadn’t heard friends say that [an anterior placenta] was probably the reason for [fewer] movements, I would have never known,” Runion says.
Perhaps one of the most concerning aspects of a mother carrying a child with an anterior placenta isn’t always the decreased fetal movement, but how little regard some physicians give on the matter. While anterior placentas are fairly common for OBGYNs to see, for pregnant women, it can be a hell storm filled with relentless worry. A few minutes of a doctor’s time to explain the situation could resolve these anxieties.
Even when I was 35 weeks pregnant, it wasn’t unusual for long stretches of time to pass without feeling my daughter move. I made sure to inform my OB’s office and get checked out each and every time (hence the 60 ultrasound photos I have), and they were always perfectly fine.
As my son, Baby A, grew bigger, I could feel his punches while he laid breech and down low beside my cervix, but I never did feel my daughter moving in that same way. I could see her moving from the outside of my belly, but she was sandwiched between her placenta and my internal organs, making it nearly impossible to feel her pokes and prodding.
Although having an anterior placenta is fairly common, with research indicating up to 52% of all pregnancies will have an anterior placenta, it has been associated with some challenges beyond “muffled” fetal movements. Since an anterior placenta sits at the front of a mother’s stomach, it can make finding a fetal heartbeat and figuring out the baby’s position far more difficult with an entire organ blocks the line of sight. Increased back pain has also been linked to such placenta positioning, as have studies indicating babies are more likely to be born with posterior fetal representation, or “sunny side up.” Which, as I’ve heard, can cause some relentless back labor.
Bottom line: Knowledge is key in pregnancy, and understanding the impact of an anterior placenta can go a long way in easing a worried pregnant mama’s mind.