Placental calcification explained

The placenta provides your growing foetus with all the nourishment and nutrients it needs to thrive. However, this organ can age and calcify towards the end of your pregnancy. Midwife Pippa Hime explains what this means for you and your baby.

Your placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy. It is contained within your uterus and has a central umbilical cord that connects to your baby. The placenta is where all nutrients and oxygen are passed on to your growing foetus and all waste products and carbon dioxide are returned for elimination by the mother. Towards the end of pregnancy, small calcium mineral deposits can build up in the placenta meaning it may not function optimally.

ALSO SEE: 10 important placenta facts you should know if you are pregnant

What does this mean?

Calcification of the placenta occurs naturally towards the end of the pregnancy as the placenta starts to age. It occurs in varying degrees and is not often a problem when you are past 37 weeks pregnant. If there is calcification earlier in the pregnancy i.e. before 36 weeks, it can be a risk. If your placenta is not functioning properly it means your growing baby may not be receiving all the nutrients it needs to grow and develop adequately.

What increases my risks of placental calcification?

  • Smoking (even exposure to second hand smoke)
  • Stress during
  • High blood pressure
  • Placental abruption (where the placenta starts to detach from the uterus)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased intake of calcium
  • Certain medications

ALSO SEE: 3 techniques to reduce stress during pregnancy

How is placental calcification diagnosed?

You may have no physical symptoms to indicate your placenta is calcified. Some women notice the baby moves less. Your doctor will check the health of your placenta with each appointment. If they suspect there is placental calcification, an ultrasound will be done. This will assess the degree of calcification which is graded as level 0,1, 2, and 3. Depending on the severity, your doctor will assess the risks. If it is a low grade and you are over 37 weeks pregnant, you and the baby will be monitored closely for any growth restrictions. If the grading is a level 3, you will most likely need a C-section or induction to deliver the baby sooner. This means the baby is not getting enough nutrition in utero to grow.

ALSO SEE: 11 reasons your gynae might insist you have a C-section

Can I prevent placental calcification?

Some degree of calcification is acceptable in a healthy term pregnancy. However, you can prevent premature calcification by:

  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Remaining calm and reducing stressors in your pregnancy
  • Having regular check-ups with your gynae or midwife to identify any risk factors
  • Regular check-ups of foetal growth.
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