Placental Insufficiency – When The Placenta Does Not Work Properly

Placental insufficiency is a phenomenon that frightens many pregnant women. The placenta forms at the beginning of pregnancy and supplies the fetus with nutrients and oxygen via the umbilical cord for nine months.

So if the placenta is not working properly, it can be life-threatening for the unborn baby. Placental insufficiency is divided into acute and chronic forms.

The good news, however, is that it is rare and can be treated well if detected early. But what exactly is placental insufficiency?

The Placenta – A Fascinating Organ

The miracle of life is more than just a saying for expectant parents. It is indeed like a miracle when a viable little human being grows from a simple fertilized egg in just nine months. Without the placenta, none of this would be possible. The placenta is formed as soon as the fertilized egg implants in the uterus.

It forms from both fetal and maternal cells and is the most important protective and supply structure for the baby during pregnancy. The organ works continuously to ensure the healthy development of the baby.

The placenta supplies the fetus with nutrients and oxygen via the umbilical cord and at the same time keeps harmful substances away from the child via the so-called placental barrier. The placental barrier ensures that your blood and your baby’s blood do not mix to protect it from viruses and germs.

However, it cannot protect the baby from all harm. Certain substances, such as alcohol and nicotine, and some pathogens, including chickenpox and rubella, can cross the placental barrier.

As a result, they can harm the unborn child’s development. It is therefore important to eat a health-conscious diet during pregnancy and to protect oneself from environmental risks.

In addition to supplying the fetus, the placenta performs a number of other tasks. These include, for example, the production of hormones. These maintain the pregnancy and adapt the maternal organism to the pregnancy.

The most important hormones include progesterone, estrogen, and HCG. When the baby is born, the placenta has had its day and is expelled about 10 to 15 minutes later. This is also called the afterbirth.

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Forms Of Placental Insufficiency: Acute Or Chronic?

When the placenta does not function properly, it can have severe consequences for the unborn child. However, it is important to distinguish between acute and chronic placental insufficiency.

While the acute form is an emergency situation that occurs suddenly and is life-threatening to the baby, chronic placental insufficiency is a chronic condition.

It can accompany one throughout pregnancy and hinder the embryo’s development. The causes of placental insufficiency can be very diverse and range from harmful maternal behaviors to diseases to insert velamentous.

Insertion velamentous is an umbilical cord abnormality. Placental insufficiency is treacherous because there are usually no external visible symptoms. Therefore, it is especially important to attend regular check-ups in order to detect possible complications at an early stage. How do placental insufficiencies develop and how can they be treated?

Acute Placental Insufficiency:

Acute placental insufficiency is an acute emergency situation that requires immediate action. The placenta or umbilical cord suddenly does not receive proper blood flow, which sooner or later results in the fetus not receiving enough oxygen.

For example, if the umbilical cord becomes severely knotted, the unborn child may suffocate within minutes.

Acute placental insufficiency can develop within a very short time, that is, minutes to hours. There are no clear symptoms by which you can recognize acute placental insufficiency.

Therefore, it is especially important to pay attention to abnormalities such as bleeding or pain. It is better to contact the gynecologist once too often.

How Does Acute Placental Insufficiency Occur?

The possible causes of acute placental insufficiency can be many. Vena-cava compression syndrome, labor storm, premature placental abruption, or insertion velamentous. What do all these terms mean, you ask? That’s explained to you below.

Vena Cava Compression Syndrome

Vena cava compression syndrome is a circulatory disorder characterized by a severe drop in blood pressure and even unconsciousness. The syndrome occurs when the uterus presses on the inferior vena cava, whereupon blood flow to the heart is interrupted.

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Labor Storm

Labor storm is the term used to describe hyperactive labor. This means that there are contractions that are too strong or too short in succession, accompanied by severe abdominal pain. These pose a threat to the oxygen supply to the fetus. In addition, uterine rupture may occur.

Premature Placental Abruption

Normally, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall 10-15 minutes after birth and is expelled. This is also called the afterbirth. However, if the placenta detaches before the baby is born, the fetus can no longer be cared for.

It can also lead to heavy bleeding, which is a life-threatening situation for both the mother and the child. Therefore, immediate action must be taken in this situation.

Umbilical Cord Prolapse

After the rupture of the membranes, the umbilical cord may become pinched off as it shifts to lie between the baby and the birth canal. Because the fetus receives oxygen from the placenta through the umbilical cord, a prolapsed umbilical cord can be very dangerous for the baby.

Insertio Velamentosa

Insertion velamentous refers to an umbilical cord anomaly in which the vessels of the umbilical cord run freely across the membranes of the egg. Compression of vessels can occur, resulting in reduced blood supply, which can cause malformations and maldevelopment in the fetus.

The likelihood of insertion velamentous increases in multiple pregnancies. Injury to an umbilical cord vessel in insertion velamentous is possible at any time.

How Is Acute Placental Insufficiency Treated?

Depending on the cause, acute placental insufficiency can be treated. While an umbilical cord anomaly such as insertion velamentous is difficult to treat, a labor storm, for example, can be inhibited by appropriate medication. Nevertheless, causal therapy – i.e., remedying the causes – is refrained from in most cases.

Acute placental insufficiency is an urgent emergency situation that can, under certain circumstances, end fatally for the baby in a very short time. Therefore, an attempt is usually made to deliver the baby as quickly as possible. If the oxygen supply is completely cut off, an emergency cesarean section must be performed immediately.

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In life-threatening situations for mother and child, the risks of premature birth are also accepted. Thanks to modern medicine, babies have a chance of survival from the 25th week of pregnancy. However, acute placental insufficiency can also occur during birth.

In this case, the birth is often accelerated with the help of forceps or a suction cup. With the help of these instruments, the baby can be quickly pulled out of the birth canal. In fact, most cases of acute placental insufficiency occur during delivery.

Therefore, you should not worry. If there are any complications during delivery, the attending physicians will know what to do immediately.

Chronic Placental Insufficiency

Chronic placental insufficiency, as the name suggests, develops over a long period of time. Unlike acute placental insufficiency, it is usually not life-threatening for the baby but can still have serious consequences for its development.

Externally, there are no visible symptoms by which you can recognize chronic placental insufficiency. However, if you attend regular check-ups, your gynecologist will be able to determine whether your baby is developing properly and take appropriate therapeutic steps if this is not the case.

There are many causes of chronic placental insufficiency, both behavioral and physical. However, there are often multiple factors involved in its development. Here is an overview of the possible causes:

General Diseases Of The Mother

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Anemia (lack of blood)

Harmful Behaviors

  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Alcohol consumption

Pregnancy-Associated Diseases

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Gestational hypertension

Chronic Placental Insufficiency – What Now?

Chronic placental insufficiency can develop as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, immediate delivery of the baby is obviously not an option. Instead, causal therapy must be provided.

If you have been diagnosed with chronic placental insufficiency, your gynecologist will want to see you more frequently to make sure your baby is doing well on a regular basis.

In addition, he or she will try to correct the cause(s) of placental insufficiency. For example, existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can be treated with medications.

If harmful behaviors such as smoking during pregnancy are the cause of insufficiency, it is very important to stop them immediately.

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Of course, even if the pregnancy is normal, you should not smoke. If the causes of placental insufficiency are not eliminated, the child may suffer from insufficient oxygen supply in the further course of pregnancy.

A lack of oxygen damages all organs and can cause severe developmental disorders, including paralysis and disabilities. Your gynecologist will do everything possible to prevent a premature birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.

However, if there is a severe worsening of placental insufficiency, the baby will be delivered, usually by cesarean section.

Preventing Placental Insufficiency – Is It Possible?

Placental insufficiency is a dreaded complication of pregnancy. You may be asking yourself if there is anything you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. The answer is no. Whether or not acute placental insufficiency occurs is out of your hands.

With any birth, there is a risk of the umbilical cord becoming knotted, the placenta detaching prematurely, or insertion velamentous. The good news is that you can still do things to prevent chronic placental insufficiency.

For example, if you are at higher risk because of high blood pressure or diabetes, regular checkups with your gynecologist are especially important. In this way, a possible malfunction of the placenta can be detected at an early stage.

In addition, you should refrain from harmful behaviors such as tobacco or alcohol consumption during pregnancy. If you eat healthily and have regular check-ups, your child has the best chance of being born healthy and happy.

Placental Insufficiency Also Possible In The 2nd Child?

Many mothers who have suffered from placental insufficiency in a previous pregnancy wonder if the same thing will happen with their next children. It is not possible to give a repeat probability for placental insufficiency.

However, if you have a history of placental insufficiency, especially of the chronic form, it is important in later pregnancies to have regular checkups.

This way, the placenta can be closely monitored and any changes will be detected early. So don’t worry: doctors today are so well trained that they can safely manage such complications.

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