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A baby's placenta starts to form early on in pregnancy. Although we rarely gives this unique organ any thought, it plays an essential role in keeping your baby nourished, as well as protecting her from diseases.

Unfortunately, the placenta does not always do its job properly. What are the placental complications that can crop up during pregnancy, and what happens if you have any of them?  

If you are not sure about the placenta's role during pregnancy, you may like to read: What does the placenta do? Now, let's move on to what can go wrong with a placenta. Are you currently pregnant? Then don't worry about the functioning of your placenta, because problems will either be diagnosed during regular prenatal care, once you have symptoms, or after delivery. There is nothing you can do to stop placental problems from occurring, but proper care will help in all cases.

Placental insufficiency

This complication, basically, "does what it says on the tin". In the case of placental insufficiency, the placenta does not supply the necessary amount of nutrients and oxygen to the baby. The placenta either didn't develop properly in the first place, or it was damaged. This can be connected to maternal blood supply issues.

Intrauterine growth restriction

In the case of intrauterine growth restriction, the baby is small for gestational age, and her head is often abnormally large. IUGR can be caused by other things, like chromosomal abnormalities, as well, but is often a consequence of placental insufficiency the baby cannot grow according to schedule because she isn't receiving everything she needs from the placenta.


This dangerous pregnancy condition is characterized by a dangerously high maternal blood pressure. Although nobody is sure what causes pre-eclampsia, we include it in the list of placental complications because placental insufficiency is linked to the development of pre-eclampsia.

Placenta previa

When the placenta covers the opening to the uterus the cervix the baby will not be able to be born vaginally. In addition this condition, called placenta previa, often causes bleeding during pregnancy, and may put a woman at risk of miscarriage. A low-lying placenta during the early stages of the second trimester may not mean placenta previa, because the placenta may "move up" as the uterus grows. Women diagnosed with placenta previa will need to schedule a c-section before natural labor starts.

Placenta accreta

With placenta accreta, the placenta is buried in the uterine wall deeper than usual. There are various degrees of this condition, and depending on its severity the placenta will have trouble coming loose after delivery of the baby, or the placenta is buried so deep that a hysterectomy is required. Unfortunately, doctors are rarely able to diagnose this condition before childbirth.

Placental abruption

When the placenta starts detaching from the uterine wall during pregnancy or during labor, it is called a placental abruption. The abruption can be partial or total, and in the latter case, the baby will remain without oxygen. Symptoms including blood loss, pain, and a very hard uterus.

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