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The placenta is a link between you and your baby during pregnancy. It helps your baby to grow normally by providing it with food and oxygen. When the placenta is not able to do its work properly, the condition is called placental insufficiency or dysfunction.
Placental insufficiency is a serious complication of pregnancy and can happen when the placenta does not develop properly or is damaged. If this condition develops, the baby doesn’t get the nutrition and oxygen it needs to grow and can develop complications like low birth weight, premature birth, and birth defects. The mother can also develop dangerous complications if it’s left undiagnosed. Thus placental insufficiency must be diagnosed as early into the pregnancy to avoid these complications.
Causes of placental insufficiency
Actually, placental insufficiency is a blood flow disorder which happens due to a reduction in the mother’s blood supply. It can be triggered by vascular disorders, medications, lifestyle and the following:
- Chronic hypertension
- Blood clotting disorders
- Serious anemia
- Blood thinners
- Drug abuse
Other causes of placental insufficiency are cases where the placenta doesn’t attach properly to the uterine wall or if the placenta breaks away from it.
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of this dangerous condition in the mother except that she may notice that the size of her uterus is smaller than in previous pregnancies. She may also notice that the fetus is moving less than before. As far as symptoms of placental abruption or disruption go, there may be vaginal bleeding or pre-term labour contractions. In case placental insufficiency is not diagnosed, the mother can experience a serious fatal condition called Preeclampsia, which means high BP and protein in the urine as well as disruption of the placenta and pre-term birth. The picture for the baby is pretty dim too. The earlier placental insufficiency happens, the more grave the risk for the baby. The baby can suffer from:
- Cerebral palsy and learning disabilities
- Low body temperature
- Low blood sugar
- Premature birth
- Cesarean delivery
Placental insufficiency can’t be cured, but it can be managed. Once diagnosed, it can be managed through proper prenatal care like treating maternal high blood pressure or diabetes, education on preeclampsia and ways to self-monitor for the disease, frequent doctor visits, bed rest to conserve energy for the baby and consultation with a specialist. These can improve the baby’s chances of normal growth.
Proper prenatal care of pregnant women is thus, very important as it can diagnose placental insufficiency early. A simple ultrasound can diagnose this dangerous condition by measuring the baby's size and growth, and assessing the size and placement of the placenta. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a gynaecologist and ask a free question.