At my 20 week anatomy ultrasound appointment I asked the tech where my placenta was located. She said I had an anterior placenta, to which I replied, “that’s stupid.”
The ultrasound tech wondered why I said that, and maybe you wonder too. This post is everything you need to know about why having an anterior placenta is stupid. 😉
What is an Anterior Placenta?
First, let me explain what an anterior placenta is. Placentas typically attach themselves in the back/posterior of the uterus, but when your placenta is anterior it is right up front (placentas can also attach on the sides and top of the uterus).
So, if you came up to me when I was pregnant and rubbed my belly and started talking to the baby, you were in fact introducing yourself to my placenta and not the baby. My placenta is in the front of my uterus, right in between baby and my belly button.
Ok, so having an anterior placenta isn’t necessarily “stupid” but more annoying than anything. And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have a healthy placenta keeping my baby healthy. I’m also grateful that the placenta isn’t low lying which can be dangerous if it’s covering my cervix, etc. (placenta previa).
However, one of the reasons why I am annoyed I have an anterior placenta is that it makes it really hard to hear fetal heart tones with a fetoscope in your second trimester.
What is a Fetoscope?
A fetoscope is like a stethoscope but used primarily to hear fetal heart tones. It’s not invasive, doesn’t use ultrasound like a doppler does, so anybody could use it without having to have a medically indicated reason.
However, since my placenta is in the front it makes perfect sense that I have been unable to hear my baby’s heartbeat with my fetoscope… but instead can hear my own pulse loud and clear. I have been hearing my placenta!
When Can I Hear My Baby’s Heartbeat With An Anterior Placenta?
Another reason an anterior placenta is stupid is because it may take your care provider while to find baby’s heartbeat with a handheld doppler in the first trimester and some of the second. Nothing is worse than waiting for your care provider to try to find a heartbeat… and then to not be able to find it! Typically, if this happens mamas go into “worse case scenario mode” and assume the worst at this point. However, the inability to hear a heartbeat with a doppler in the first and some of the second trimester is not uncommon.
This exact scenario happened to me right around the end of the first trimester when I was pregnant with my daughter. Instead of sending me on home and trying again the following month, my midwife was kind and sent me to get a quick ultrasound. To my relief I saw her AND heard her. At that point I knew I was REALLY pregnant! (Haha… if you’ve been there you know exactly how I felt!)
When Will I Feel Fetal Movement with an Anterior Placenta?
Another reason I was annoyed that I have an anterior placenta is that it typically takes longer for a woman to start feeling fetal movement and when you do feel movement it can be dulled compared to what other moms might be feeling. With an anterior placenta you might not feel movement WELL into your second trimester. All normal!
With my anterior placenta pregnancy I started feeling movement at 16 weeks and my husband felt baby girl kick at 19 weeks so I don’t think having an anterior placenta impacted feeling baby movement for me in this prengnacy. I have noticed, however, that I only feel movement down low and to the sides, which makes sense because the placenta is cushioning any kicks I may have otherwise felt with a posterior placenta.
Will an Anterior Placenta make Labor Longer and More Painful?
A third reason I was annoyed about my anterior placenta is I have been really looking forward to figuring out my baby’s position (aka belly mapping) and I would assume that an anterior placenta would make it a bit more tricky. I went to the Spinning Babies website to see what Gail had to say about the anterior placenta and baby positioning and discovered that some people believe OP babies are more common with an anterior placenta. Oy!
An OP baby is in the occiput posterior position which is head down and baby is facing mom’s front. The optimal position is called occiput anterior which is head down and facing towards mom’s back. Having a baby in the optimal position will make your labor shorter and less painful – a good thing!
Before my head started spinning, I read that whole page and became educated. So, in conclusion, yes it can be more difficult to determine baby’s position, but no, it doesn’t necessarily mean baby will be OP more often especially if you follow the advice The 3 Principles of Spinning Babies
- Balance your uterus. 1-5 short inversions per day and the rebozo are your friend.
- Apply gravity using maternal positioning. Couches and recliners are for wimps!
- Move the mother. Pelvic rocks, swimming, and more inversions.
On that page it said that a good time to start implementing these things is around 20 weeks. So, it looks like I need to start doing daily inversions, stretching, pelvic floor exercises, gentle prenatal yoga, psoas exercises, brisk walking, and swimming!
The Daily Essentials video by Spinning Babies is probably the best resource I’ve found to prepare you and your baby for a less painful and more empowered birth experience.
Update: I gave birth to my daughter one day before her due date. The labor was straightforward and I had no baby position problems or placenta problems. Everything went great!
Will I Need to Have a Cesarean Birth Because of My Anterior Placenta?
A diagnosis of an anterior placenta in and of itself is not a medically indicated reason for a cesarean section. In English – No, you won’t need a cesarean because your placenta is anterior. Other placenta issues like placenta previa (where the placenta covers all or part of the cervix – not an emergency but you obviously cannot have a vaginal birth if the placenta is still covering the cervix at 40 weeks or full term), or placental abruption (where the placenta becomes partially or completely detached from the uterus – AN EMERGENCY!) would definitely be reason to have a life saving cesarean birth.
Note: If you are interested in encapsulating your placenta for postpartum wellness please see my DIY Placenta Encapsulation Supplies list.
If you’ve read to the bottom of this article… thank you and well done! You’re probably the type of parent who LOVES to do research and wants to make the best choices for you and your family.