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A frontal placenta is a placenta that implants in the front of the uterus, facing the stomach, instead of the back, facing the spine. This is entirely normal and not a cause for concern, although it can create some issues during prenatal exams. It is important to distinguish a frontal, also known as anterior, placenta from a low-lying placenta. A low-lying placenta is a concern because it may indicate placenta previa, where the placenta partially or totally covers the cervix and can cause a problem during delivery.
When fertilized eggs implant in the uterine wall, they typically do so in the upper posterior of the womb, but not always. Sometimes a pregnant woman ends up with a frontal placenta. An ultrasound examination can pinpoint the location of the placenta and provide more information about its condition. Patients may notice that it is sometimes harder to find the heartbeat in the early stages of pregnancy because it is hidden behind the placenta, whether the doctor is listening for fetal heart sounds or using an ultrasound machine. The search for the heartbeat doesn't mean the baby's heart is not strong, only that it's a little hard to find.
This placement of the placenta can also change the way the kicks and other movements of the baby feel. Sometimes the frontal placenta acts as padding and may cushion movements early in the pregnancy. This can lead the mother to think that her baby is not very active, when in fact she just can't feel it. Doctors may also have trouble palpating the fetus with a frontal placenta in early pregnancy, as it lies in the way and can make the developing fetus harder to feel.
In the event a woman needs amniocentesis during the pregnancy, the frontal placenta can make the procedure a little more difficult. The doctor will evaluate the patient to determine if the test is necessary and make any appropriate recommendations. Care providers will advise against the test if they think it is too dangerous, and most have experience with performing it in patients who have a frontal placenta. While it may take longer to do the test, it should not be any more dangerous.
Patients can deliver normally with a frontal placenta. It does not have any impact on the position of the baby in the uterus. As the pregnancy progresses, patients can check on the position of the baby to identify concerns like a breech birth.