What Is an Anterior Placenta During Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 22, 2022
4 min read

The placenta is an organ that forms in the uterus when you’re pregnant. It supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus and plays a vital role in removing the waste products from the child’s blood. This article explores the causes of an anterior placenta, its diagnosis, and its treatment.

The placenta is an organ that forms specifically during pregnancy. The placenta begins to grow at the location where the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, and the child’s umbilical cord emerges from it. Some possible positions for the placenta are:

  • Anterior placenta: Front wall of the uterus
  • Posterior placenta: Rear wall of the uterus
  • Fundal placenta: Top of the uterus
  • Lateral placenta: Left or right wall of the uterus

An anterior placenta is when your placenta grows in the front of the uterus near your abdomen. This condition is not unusual, as the placenta can form anywhere in the uterus and is typically discovered around 18 to 21 weeks into the pregnancy using ultrasound. The primary role of the placenta is to absorb nutrients and oxygen from your system and carry it to the growing fetus through the umbilical cord. It also clears harmful waste and carbon dioxide from the fetus's blood. In short, the placenta plays the role of your baby’s kidneys, liver, and lungs till it’s born.

The placenta can move within the uterus until 32 weeks into the pregnancy, after which it does not move. In many cases, the placenta moves away and upward from the cervix (located at the bottom of the uterus) as the baby grows. An anterior placenta usually does not lead to any health issues for you or your child, and in most situations, you won’t notice any effects.

Usually, an anterior placenta is nothing to worry about and will not interfere with your pregnancy or delivery. It's good to know whether you have one, though. Some of the common signs of an anterior placenta are:

The child’s heart rate. If you have an anterior placenta, your doctor may find it difficult to detect your child’s heartbeat using a Doppler. 

The child’s movement. Under normal circumstances, you can feel your baby’s kicks in your womb roughly 18 weeks into the pregnancy. With an anterior placenta, you may not feel kicks until later, and they may not feel as strong.

There’s no clear reason why a fertilized egg fixes to the front of the uterus instead of somewhere else. But the front wall is a fine location for the egg to attach. The placenta’s location does not affect its ability to supply nutrients to the fetus. There are some risks of a placenta located in the anterior wall of the uterus, but it doesn’t necessarily cause any harm to you or your child.

Longer labor. If your placenta is in an anterior position, your child may be more likely to be in an occiput posterior (OP) position. Your child’s head is still placed lower than the rest of the body in the placenta, but its face is pointing forward rather than toward your back. This makes it more difficult for the child to come through the pelvis and may lead to prolonged labor.

If your child is in the OP position, it usually rotates at the time of labor so that its face stays down but faces the back. This is called the occiput anterior (OA) position.

Placenta previa. In this condition, your placenta partially or completely covers the opening of the uterus, called the cervix. The cervix is the opening through which the baby comes out during labor. Placenta previa occurs in roughly one out of 200 pregnancies. In many cases, the placenta is located at the bottom of the uterus, and as the baby grows, it moves to the top. This typically occurs during the third trimester (between week 27 to the end of pregnancy).

But in some cases, the placenta does not move up and blocks the cervix. This may lead to moderate or heavy vaginal bleeding and cause other complications.

C-section. If the placenta blocks the cervix, your child cannot come out through the vagina. In such cases, you may need to undergo a surgical delivery.

While there is no treatment for an anterior placenta, you should consider some of the following points.

  • One of the hardest aspects of an anterior placenta is not being able to feel your child kicking. This is especially true during your first pregnancy, as you may expect to feel your child’s kicks more prominently.
  • There are no specific procedures that you can do to avoid an anterior placenta. It grows where the fertilized egg fixes itself on the uterine wall.
  • Your placenta may change its position as your pregnancy progresses. You need not check for an anterior placenta again unless the placenta covers your cervix.
  • You can expect a normal delivery with an anterior placenta unless it blocks your cervix. In this scenario, you’ll most probably need to undergo a C-section.

If you’ve been informed that you have an anterior placenta, check with your doctor:

  • About the health of your baby
  • Whether the condition will affect your delivery
  • If you need to do anything specific to have a safe pregnancy