The placenta is a really important organ in pregnancy. As your little one develops, the placenta supplies nutrients and oxygen while removing waste products from your baby’s blood. Sometimes a placental complication called circumvallate placenta can arise during pregnancy.
In this post, you’d learn about the risk factors, causes, and treatment of circumvallate placenta. Also, you’d find reliable info about the effects of circumvallate placenta on pregnancy and childbirth.
Table of contents:
- What Is Circumvallate Placenta?
- What Are the Risk Factors?
- Causes of Circumvallate Placenta
- Symptoms of Circumvallate Placenta
- What Are the Effects of Circumvallate Placenta?
- How to Diagnose Circumvallate Placenta?
- Circumvallate Placenta Treatment
What Is Circumvallate Placenta?
Circumvallate placenta is a rare placenta complication that occurs when the covering layer of the placenta on the side of the fetus folds backward around its other edges. In most cases, this abnormal folding happens because the fetal part of the placenta is too small.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Although there’s no telltale sign of circumvallate placenta, certain medical conditions before and during pregnancy may increase the chances of having a circumvallate placenta.
These risk factors include:
- Maternal Infections (Uterine or Vaginal)
- Multiple Pregnancies
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Birth defects due to genetic or chromosomal abnormalities
Thankfully, routine medical examinations and history taking during your antenatal clinics would help your doctor identify these risk factors and begin any of the treatment options mentioned later in this article.
Causes of Circumvallate Placenta
Here’s the fact: Circumvallate placenta is caused by a variation in placenta development.
However, medical experts haven’t identified the actual cause of circumvallate placenta. However, researchers agree that there’s almost no way of preventing this condition from occurring.
Furthermore, it is important to note that this condition is very rare as it only occurs in 1-2% of all pregnancies globally.
Symptoms of Circumvallate Placenta
Interestingly, the circumvallate placenta may not cause any symptoms in pregnancy and only be discovered after the placenta is delivered. In other cases, the condition can raise certain red flags that your doctor can identify during your regular antenatal clinics.
The common symptoms of circumvallate placenta include:
Fetal Growth Restriction
In some cases, fetal growth restriction may occur in women with circumvallate placenta. The placenta is a fetomaternal organ that supplies vital nutrients and gases for the fetus to grow. Therefore, anything that affects placental development can prevent the baby from growing well.
Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)
This happens when the amniotic sac ruptures before the onset of labor. Although PROM is an important pregnancy condition, which has various causes and risk factors, it can also be a symptom of circumvallate placenta.
This is the most common symptom of circumvallate placenta.
Women with a circumvallate placenta often experience persistent vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. In fact, recent medical research shows that circumvallate placenta may cause vaginal bleeding in all three trimesters of pregnancy.
What Are the Effects of Circumvallate Placenta?
Due to its unique features and functions during pregnancy, placenta abnormalities like Placenta Previa can affect both the mother and child during pregnancy or delivery.
The major effects of circumvallate placenta include:
When it happens, circumvallate placenta may cause the amniotic sac to rupture before the due date. This would lead to preterm delivery.
In this case, your doctor may decide to keep you in the hospital and administer IV fluids that relax the uterus and stop the process of labor. In addition, he/she would provide drugs that spur your little one’s lung development as you prepare for delivery.
Chronic Lung Diseases
As we mentioned earlier, circumvallate placenta can cause premature birth.
When a child is born before the due date, there’s a high chance that his/her lungs aren’t developed enough to handle gaseous exchange outside the womb. Therefore, researchers agree that circumvallate placenta can increase the occurrence of chronic lung disease in infants.
This is an emergency medical condition that occurs when the placenta suddenly detaches from the uterus.
Placenta abruption is considered an emergency condition because it can place the baby at serious risk due to deprived oxygen supply. When this happens, an emergency cesarean section is conducted to save the life of the baby and prevent possible organ damage.
In addition, placenta abruption can cause serious hemorrhage that also places the mother at risk.
Low Birth Weight
As we mentioned earlier, fetal growth restriction is a common symptom or feature of circumvallate placenta. Therefore, children of women with circumvallate placenta often have a low birth weight.
In plain terms, oligohydramnios means insufficient amniotic fluid.
It occurs when there is less than 300 mL of amniotic fluid present by the time the baby gets to term. Oligohydramnios is a serious condition because your baby depends on amniotic fluid for his/her lung, muscle, and bone development. In addition to this, the amniotic fluid cushions the baby and provides essential nutrients during pregnancy.
Miscarriage & Stillbirth
Sadly, circumvallate placenta can lead to a miscarriage or stillbirth if any of the effects mentioned earlier is left untreated.
How to Diagnose Circumvallate Placenta?
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no telltale sign of circumvallate placenta during pregnancy. In fact, doctors often diagnose this condition when they observe the placenta after childbirth.
However, a combination of proper medical history (to identify the risk factors) and routine ultrasound scans during pregnancy may help a doctor diagnose circumvallate placenta.
Thankfully, a proper diagnosis before birth would help your doctor begin proper treatment to minimize the risk of low birth weight and placenta abruption.
Circumvallate Placenta Treatment
While treating circumvallate placenta, the goal is to reduce the risk of complications.
In all cases, one of the major effects of circumvallate placenta is low birth weight; your doctor would monitor this by recommending routine ultrasound scans. However, if the baby is still not growing as fast as it should, he/she would recommend early delivery.
Although a C-section is often preferred for early deliveries, it is also possible to have a vaginal birth.
In cases of placenta abruption due to circumvallate placenta, your doctor would recommend any or all of the following:
- Hospital bed rest
- Early delivery
- Emergency C-section
Finally, it is important to note that there’s almost nothing you can do to prevent circumvallate placenta. In fact, when it occurs, it is not your fault or due to something you did wrong.
Thankfully, it is very rare and can be managed with proper medical care to minimize the risk of complications.
Everything would work out fine.
- Taniguchi H, et al. (2014). Circumvallate placenta: Associated clinical manifestations and complications — A retrospective study. DOI:
- Rathbun, K. M., & Hildebrand, J. P. (2019). Placenta abnormalities.
- Dayal, S., & Hong, P. L. (2019). Premature rupture of membranes.