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Placental calcification in pregnancy is a condition in which there is a slow but continuous process of calcium depositions in the placenta. It is normal to have placental calcification towards the end of pregnancy, but if the condition occurs before the 36th week of pregnancy, it can result in unusual pathological changes.
The pregnant woman may suffer a postpartum haemorrhage or placental abruptions, and she may have to be shifted to the ICU in case she has either of these conditions. A baby born under such circumstances may be born preterm, may have a low birth weight or may have an unsatisfactory Apgar score. In some cases, the baby may also die. This condition usually happens in high-risk pregnancies, such as in cases, where a pregnant woman suffers from hypertension, diabetes, anaemia etc. But sometimes, this condition may even happen in low-risk pregnancies. The occurrence of this condition can prove to be dangerous for the mother as well as the baby. Therefore, continuous monitoring by the caregivers of the mother as well as the foetus is imperative.
What Is Meant By Ageing of the Placenta?
As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta deteriorates. By the end of the pregnancy term, its ability to supply oxygen and food to the foetus decreases. And by the end of the 42nd week, it becomes mandatory to deliver the baby as, by that time, the placenta gets extremely calcified, and it becomes difficult for the baby to breathe inside the mother’s womb or even get nutrition from the mother.
How Is the Age of the Placenta Calculated?
To estimate the exact age or calcification of placenta is difficult. Trained radiologists who conduct ultrasounds may be able to tell you an approximate age of the placenta through the ultrasound images. However, different doctors may have different interpretations of the same image.
How Is Placenta Calcification Diagnosed?
The solitary way in which we can diagnose a placental calcification is through pelvic ultrasonography. However, in many cases, it gets diagnosed during the routine sonography that is conducted during pregnancy.
How Does the Ageing of Placenta Affect the Delivery?
Placental calcification near the end of the pregnancy period is termed normal. In fact, the start of placental calcification could mean that you are nearing your delivery time. However, calcification before the 37th week or the maturity of the foetus can pose a problem to the baby. It can cause low birth weight, preterm birth and in rare cases, the death of the foetus. However, with immediate medical intervention and continuous monitoring of the mother and baby, it can be taken care of. Let’s understand placental calcification at different weeks and what it implies.
1. Calcification of Placenta Before 32 weeks
- If calcification starts before the 32-weeks gestation, it is termed as early preterm placental calcification.
- The start of calcification at this period of pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for the mother as well as the baby.
- The mother may experience postpartum haemorrhage and placental abruption.
- The baby may be born preterm and may experience all types of risks associated with premature births.
- The baby may have a very low Apgar score and a low birth weight.
- In rare cases, the foetus may die in the mother’s womb itself.
2. Calcified Placenta Between 28 and 36 weeks
- Pregnant women, who suffer from hypertension, diabetes, kidney disorders, anaemia, cardio problems etc., or in other words, women with high-risk pregnancies, are more at risk or danger than women with low-risk pregnancies or normal pregnancies.
- It requires continuous monitoring of the foetus and the mother by doctors.
- Calcification at this stage of pregnancy could result in adverse outcomes for the mother as well as the foetus.
3. Placental Ageing at 36 weeks
- Grade III placental calcification can induce hypertension during pregnancy which can prove to be fatal for the foetus and result in pregnancy-related complications for the mother.
- The baby born in this condition will probably have a low birth weight.
- The mother has to have a preterm delivery which will in all probability be through C-section.
4. Placental Calcification from 37 to 42 weeks
- Delivery from the 37th week onwards can be termed as safe. The foetus is fully matured and may not face any risks.
- The weight of the baby is usually normal.
- Doctors do not term it as risky for the mother or the baby.
- However, babies should be delivered before the 42nd week since placental calcification makes the placenta incapable of delivering nutrition and oxygen to the foetus. Inadequate supply of oxygen could also pose a risk on the baby’s brain and damage it.
Can Early Ageing of the Placenta Affect an Unborn Child?
Premature placental calcification may pose several complications for the mother and baby. Since it is a condition wherein deposits of calcium form in the placenta and obstruct the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus, it can be termed as a dangerous condition. As the baby does not receive the required amount of nutrients or oxygen, it has to be delivered preterm, which results in low birth weight. Due to the calcification process, some parts of the placenta become dead and don’t function normally. The obstruction of oxygen can also damage the baby’s brain and prove to be fatal.
How to Prevent Placental Calcification
Placental calcification can hinder a baby’s development inside the mother’s womb and also cause several other complications. Placental calcification symptoms like less movement of the foetus than usual, the smaller size of the abdomen than in earlier pregnancies, vaginal bleeding or experiencing contractions before the 37th week should immediately be brought to the notice of your doctor.
One of the main causes of calcification of placenta is smoking during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important that pregnant women forgo smoking during pregnancy. It has also been seen that nanobacteria which also causes kidney stones are one of the reasons behind this condition. However, there are no ways to prevent it. It can be found in the bloodstreams of healthy people too.
However, regular intake of vitamins, nutrients and healthy food which contains antioxidants can stop preterm ageing of the placenta. Especially, foods containing Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta carotene should be taken in more quantity to prevent this serious condition during pregnancy. The condition is most likely to affect women who get pregnant at an early age. Therefore, avoiding pregnancy until your body matures can be a way to avoid premature ageing of the placenta.
The exact cause of placental calcification is not known. However, following a healthy lifestyle, eating nutritious foods, and going for a regular check-up during pregnancy could prevent it or detect the condition.