What Is A Calcified Placenta?

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First trimester gone, the second trimester gone, and now you’re in the final lap. Everything seems alright until you start feeling funny in your womb. 

Have you heard of an aging placenta? We can guess you’re getting frantic because the phrase “aging placenta” is not the kind of phrase you want to hear.

All the senses in your brain must be alert as you wonder, “what the frappuccino is that?”

Well, you’re just in time because we will be discussing calcified placenta and what it has to do with your pregnancy.

But before we dive in, let’s quickly remind ourselves what a placenta is. 

The placenta is the main organ that connects you to your baby. This is a unique organ that is essential for fetal growth. Without it, your baby may have trouble growing in your uterus. 

The placenta delivers oxygen and nutrition to your baby while removing waste products from your fetus’s blood. 

Although there are many disorders linked to the placenta (placental abruption, placenta previa, and placenta accreta), 

we’ll focus squarely on placental calcification and why it just had to happen. 

What Is A Calcified Placenta?

A calcified or aging placenta happens when a buildup of calcium deposits surrounds the placenta, which leads to breakdown. 

Although it typically occurs towards the end of your pregnancy, the calcified placenta can occur earlier in some women.

For instance, calcification can occur before the 36th week, leading to pregnancy complications.  

These complications include stunted fetal growth and are more likely in early placental calcification. But what is the science behind this? 

Early placental calcification could lead to decreased blood flow in the placenta, which will automatically affect the blood circulation in your baby.

Diagnosing Placental Calcification

A calcified placenta doesn’t come with lots of visible symptoms, which is why you may not know about it till you go for your ultrasound checkup. 

If your doctor notices signs of the calcified placenta, they might recommend another scan to check the intensity and know if it is harming your baby.

Calcified Placenta Symptoms

Most women do not experience any symptoms if their placenta has aged. However, some women have mentioned that they felt their baby’s movements had reduced. In some cases, the baby stops moving at all. 

Note: Your baby can stop moving even if you’re close to giving birth. 

Your baby’s health is directly linked to its movement in your womb. Women with placental calcification often feel that their baby has not moved much in the morning.

And if your baby doesn’t move despite you moving around, then you must consult your doctor right away.

Other signs that point in the way of a calcified placenta are: 
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions in your womb
  • Lower back pain or abdominal pain

Also, note that your tummy might stop growing at the rate that it should, which may most likely display that your baby is having trouble thriving in there. 

So the best thing for you to do is reach out to your doctor for immediate help. 

Causes of Calcified Placenta

Usually, most placentas develop some form of calcification as they approach full term. However, early calcification is not normal. 

A particular study confirms that people with early placental calcification rate is between 3.8 percent to 23.7 percent

Some possible risk factors that increase your chances of having a calcified placenta are:

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension caused by pregnancy
  • Detachment of the placenta from the uterus 
  • Bacterial infection in the placenta 
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation or low-frequency sound
  • Reactions to certain medications like antacids or supplements with excess calcium
  • Prenatal Stress

What Increases Your Risk For Early Placental Calcification?

Although the causes of placental calcification are not known, smoking increases the risk of calcium deposits in your placenta. 

However, don’t panic! Your doctor will monitor your health throughout your pregnancy journey.

Just make sure you’re early as the crack of dawn for all your antenatal checkups and ultrasound scans!

How Does A Calcified Placenta Affect The Baby?

From what we have talked about, you now know that preterm placental calcification isn’t good for your growing baby. But let’s remember that this relies on the calcification grade and pregnancy stage. 

Some studies suggest that if placental calcification happens before your 32nd week of pregnancy, your baby could weigh less at birth, have a low Apgar score (a test that measures your child’s health after delivery), or even come out as stillbirth.

Placental Calcification: Possible Complications

Women who are not yet full term or at 36 weeks of pregnancy are at higher risk of placenta calcification.

Suppose your physician finds out the ugly truth that your placenta is calcified. In that case, they will keep a close eye on your baby because the earlier the calcification, the higher the complications.

They may also suggest you have a c-section or induced labor to reduce possible risks that arise from complications like:

  • Premature birth
  • Underweight baby
  • Low Apgar score
  • Bleeding after delivery
  • Detachment of the placenta from the uterus 
  • Death of baby at birth

Right from the beginning, we have established that the placenta is one of the most critical organs in your body while you’re pregnant. 

Aging of your placenta is typical and can happen around your due date. But when it happens earlier than that, it can pose plenty of risks and complications. 

Any anomalies like calcifications pose a severe threat to you and your baby, especially if it happens earlier than your delivery date.

Preventing Placental Calcification

Here are pointers you can take to prevent early calcification of your placenta as a pregnant woman:

  • Avoid smoking or staying in places where smokers hang out because it can increase your risk of placental calcification. 
  • If you live with prenatal hypertension, diabetes, or anemia, you should know that your risk of getting calcified placentation is higher. Try to manage those conditions properly by sticking to what your doctor says.  
  • An antioxidant-based diet like dark chocolates, blueberries, or strawberries, can go a long way in ensuring your risk of getting a calcified placenta is lower.  

The Takeaway

  • Your placenta is the life-saving grace that nurtures your baby while they’re in the womb. 
  • It wears multiple hats as it is seen in your baby’s respiratory, nutritional, excretory, endocrine, and immunology systems. 
  • Developing a calcified placenta near your delivery date is normal and part of your pregnancy journey. 
  • Talk to your doctor if your family usually experiences this disorder or if you notice any symptoms before your delivery date.   
  1. Chen, Kuo-Hu & Chen, Li-Ru & Lee, Yu-Hsiang. (2012). The Role of Preterm Placental Calcification in High-Risk Pregnancy as a Predictor of Poor Uteroplacental Blood Flow and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome. Ultrasound in medicine & biology. 38. 1011-8. 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2012.02.004. 
  2. Jamal A, Moshfeghi M, Moshfeghi S, Mohammadi N, Zarean E, Jahangiri N. Is preterm placental calcification related to adverse maternal and fetal outcome? J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017;37(5):605-609.
  3. Cause of many preterm births discovered: Premature aging of the placenta from oxidative stress. ScienceDaily.
  4. Chen KH, Seow KM, Chen LR. The role of preterm placental calcification on assessing risks of stillbirth. Placenta. 2015;36(9):1039-1044.
  5. Chen KH, Chen LR. PP096. The effect of preterm placental calcification on uteroplacental blood flow, fetal growth, and perinatal outcome in hypertension complicating pregnancy. Pregnancy Hypertens. 2012;2(3):292.

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