What Is a Circumvallate Placenta?

A circumvallate placenta has a chorionic plate that is too small, which prevents the fetus from gaining enough nutrients to grow properly.
Women with a circumvallate placenta will have to deliver by C-section.
When a woman is diagnosed with circumvallate placenta, it's important that they receive adequate prenatal care.
Uterine pains during pregnancy may be a sign of a circumvallate placenta.
Circumvallate placenta can be diagnosed with a routine ultrasound.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 February 2015
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A circumvallate placenta is a placenta that does not form properly. This abnormality occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies, and it is not the fault of anything the mother does or does not do. It occurs because of variations in placental development that are beyond the control of the body that the fetus is gestating in. When a woman is diagnosed with this problem, it is important for her to receive adequate prenatal care because it increases the risks associated with the pregnancy.

In pregnancies with a circumvallate placenta, the chorionic plate on the fetus' side of the placenta is slightly too small. Over time, a ring of raised tissue develops and the ends of the placenta start to turn inward. This restricts the supply of nutrients to the growing fetus and can also increase the risk of a placental separation. There are some serious risks associated with this complication of pregnancy.

In the worst case scenario, this abnormality can result in pregnancy loss. If the placenta separates and a woman is not given immediate medical treatment, the baby can die. In women who have not received adequate prenatal care where the condition goes undiagnosed, fetal deaths can also be caused by the nutrient restriction associated with this condition. More commonly, women with this condition will need to deliver by cesarean section and their babies may have a low birth weight.


This condition can be diagnosed with a routine prenatal ultrasound. Physical abnormalities can be observed on the ultrasound examination in varying levels of detail, depending on the technology used for the exam. A medical professional may note that the fetus is not growing as quickly as normal and this can also provide clues to the fact that there is an abnormality. For women with this condition, it is important to eat a healthy diet to ensure that as many nutrients as possible reach the baby, and to be alert to spotting, breakthrough bleeding, and uterine pains that might indicate complications with the placenta.

Women can and do deliver healthy babies with a circumvallate placenta. The chances of a healthy birth increase with each week that the woman can successfully carry the pregnancy. An obstetrician may have specific advice for a patient, including bed rest if it becomes necessary to help her carry the pregnancy to term. Women with this placental abnormality should also make sure that they discuss their birth plans carefully with their healthcare provider.



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Post 4

I had an undiagnosed circumvallate placenta and our baby died in utero at 37 weeks. There are no guarantees that just because you've gotten that far, you're safe.

I feel that the statement "The chances of a healthy birth increase with each week that the woman can successfully carry the pregnancy" is false hope. Even though I had proper medical care and higher level ultrasounds (one even days before our baby died), there is nothing short of delivery that can ensure your baby will take its first breath, open its eyes and cry. Stillbirth happens a lot more than anyone talks about until you cross over into the baby loss side of parenting.

Post 3

I am 24 weeks today. I was diagnosed with this at about 19 weeks. I just had an ultrasound two days ago and my baby boy is right on target, no issues so far.

I have been doing my research about this and it is pretty hard to find anything about it. This is my fifth baby and I was already high risk so I will keep my fingers crossed.

Post 2

@indemnifyme - Placenta problems definitely don't preclude a successful pregnancy. A friend of mine had placenta praevia and she is now the mother of a very healthy two year old!

It was really scary though. My friend started bleeding severely and they ended up delivering her baby early. The baby had to stay in the premie ward for awhile after birth but has had no other health issues since.

Post 1

I've never had children but I feel like when I do I'm going to be a basket case. There are so many things that can go wrong during pregnancy through no fault of the mother.

It sounds like there is hope for women with this condition as long as they get good prenatal care though.

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