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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Placental Insufficiency
      Category : Health Centers > Pregnancy and Childbirth

Placental Insufficiency

Alternate Names : Placental Dysfunction

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Placental insufficiency is the failure of the placenta to supply nutrients to the fetus and remove toxic wastes.

What is going on in the body?

When the placenta fails to develop or function properly, the fetus cannot grow and develop normally. The earlier in the pregnancy that this occurs, the more severe the problems. If placental insufficiency occurs for a long time during the pregnancy, it may lead to intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR).

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Between 3 to 7% of all pregnancies are complicated by IUGR due to placental insufficiency. A low birth weight may be suspected if the size of the woman's uterus is smaller than what is expected for each week of pregnancy. The woman has a higher risk of having a child with IUGR if the following are present:

  • defects of the placental membranes
  • defects of the umbilical cord
  • abnormal implantation of the placenta in the uterus
  • a break in the placental membrane that causes the baby's blood to mix with the mother's blood
  • Rh incompatibility, a condition in which the mother's blood is not compatible with the baby's blood
  • being pregnant with twins or triplets
  • previous low-birth-weight infant
  • long-term high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • severe kidney disease
  • heavy smoking
  • insufficient weight gain by the mother during pregnancy, defined as less than 10 pounds
  • preeclampsia or eclampsia, conditions which raise the mother's blood pressure
  • high altitude
  • drug addiction, such as addiction to cocaine
  • blood thinners such as warfarin
  • immunosuppressive medications
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the mother
  • alcohol abuse
  • infection with cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, rubella, or syphilis, known collectively as TORCH infections
  • poor nutrition of the mother
  • infant with known birth defects or chromosome abnormalities
  • frequent vaginal bleeding due to placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is attached to the uterus over or near the cervix
  • certain blood disorders in the mother, such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia
  • premature placental separation, known as placental abruption


    Next section


    Placental Insufficiency: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/02/01

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