The placenta is an important organ that develops in the first few weeks of pregnancy. It connects the growing baby’s umbilical cord to the mother by attaching itself to the inner wall of the womb or the uterus. The role of placenta is to provide oxygen and nutrients to the baby and remove carbon dioxide and other waste products.
A placenta that is not properly attached, or is attached in the wrong position, can lead to dangerous consequences for both the mother and the baby. As the uterus stretches and grows during pregnancy, the placenta moves in position. By the third trimester of pregnancy, the placenta moves toward the top of the uterus. This allows the lower part of the uterus, where the cervix is located, to open freely to deliver the baby. The cervix is a passage located in the lower part of the uterus that opens up to deliver the baby.
Medically, the placenta is classified into different types such as placenta praevia, anterior placenta, posterior placenta, etc., based on where it attaches itself to the inside of the uterus and the condition of the placenta.
Placenta praevia or low-lying placenta is a condition where the placenta is in the lower part of the uterus such that it is close to the cervix or partially or completely covers the cervix. Such a condition can cause bleeding and needs medical intervention. Women having this condition are recommended bed rest and may have to go for a caesarean delivery.
Anterior placenta means that the placenta is attached to the front wall of the uterus. A placenta in this position does not usually cause any problems and is generally not a cause for concern. The only possible reason for concern may be if you are having a caesarean delivery since the placenta could be at the location where the doctor places a cut. Usually, this condition is detected on ultrasonography before the delivery, and the doctor will take adequate care to avoid the location of the placenta.
Posterior placenta is when the placenta is attached to the back wall of the uterus. A posterior placenta is a normal position for the placenta. During the third trimester, if the placenta moves to the lower part of the uterus, then it can become a cause for concern. A posterior placenta that moves toward the top of the uterus (posterior fundal placenta) or remains in the posterior position is said to be ideal for a normal delivery as this allows the baby’s head to move down toward the cervix for delivery.
The role of placenta is vital in a pregnancy. A healthy placenta nourishes the baby by providing nutrients and oxygen. However, sometimes a placenta may detach itself from the uterine wall either partially or completely. This is called placental abruption and is a very dangerous condition that requires immediate help. If you experience any kind of bleeding during pregnancy - heavy or light, painful or otherwise - please seek immediate medical help for the safety of your baby and yourself.