Causes, Risks, and Self-Care Tips for Thin Placenta in Pregnancy

Causes, Risks, and Self-Care Tips for Thin Placenta in Pregnancy

Causes, Risks, and Self-Care Tips for Thin Placenta in Pregnancy

Every pregnancy comes with its own special set of concerns, but what oftentimes scares expectant mothers is learning that she has a thin placenta. Thin placentas have raised concerns in the past over the health of the baby following birth. However, nowadays doctors find little reason to worry their patients over a thin placenta, but moms should follow self-care tips to ensure the health of their baby. In this post, I’ll go over the causes, risks, and self-care tips for thin placenta in pregnancy.

What is a placenta and what does it do?

The placenta is an organ that holds the baby snuggly against the uterine wall. It helps in transporting oxygen and other nutrients to the baby while also removing waste products.

How do doctors determine the health of the placenta?

Causes, Risks, and Self-Care Tips for Thin Placenta in Pregnancy

Your doctor will measure your placenta via ultrasound to see if it’s the correct thickness and position. Another placenta complication occurs when the placenta covers the opening of the cervix, known as placenta previa. It’s a rare but dangerous condition that can be also diagnosed via ultrasound.

What are the causes of a thin placenta?

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (chronic high blood pressure)
  • Anemia
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Certain medications (blood thinners)
  • Drug use (most notably cocaine, heroine, and methamphetamine)
  • Not eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Not consuming enough calories

What are the risks of having a thin placenta?

  • Placental disruption 
    • This occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates form the uterus prior to birth. This is an extremely dangerous condition that causes severe bleeding and ultimately leads to a premature birth and low birth weight. According to, signs of placental disruption include:
      • Bleeding, though not all women who have had a placental disruption will experience bleeding. Up to 20% don’t.
      • Uterine tenderness
      • Rapid contractions
      • Abdominal pain
      • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Low birth weight and its complications:
    • Learning disabilities
    • Low body temperature
    • Too little blood calcium
    • Excess red blood cells
    • Stillbirth
    • Increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
    • Death
  • Complications associated with poor health due to not receiving enough nutrients in utero

How can I care for and increase my placenta’s thickness?

  • Refrain from smoking. Smoking is one of the leading causes of a thin placenta, or placenta insufficiency. Nicotine causes vasoconstriction of the uterus and placenta, which hampers baby’s ability to exchange nutrients. Due to the restriction in blood flow, the placenta is not able to function at its best and oftentimes is restricted in size leading to low birth weight.
    • If you find it difficult to quit, discuss your concerns with your doctor. You don’t have to do it alone. Your doctor can help you find ways to quit safely and effectively. Don’t plan on taking any over-the-counter remedies to help you quit before talking it over with your doctor.
    • Remember, just limiting the number of cigarettes smoked is not enough and it’s never too late to quit at any point in your pregnancy. But it’s better to quit sooner than later.
    • For tips on help quitting, check out Babble’s 10 Tips on How to Quit Smoking While Pregnant.
  • Keep your calorie intake at an ideal level. Not eating enough calories leaves your baby and his or her placenta low on key nutrients required for proper growth.
    • I’m guilty of this. In addition to already being quite thin (5’4″ and 110 lbs on a good day), I consider myself a lazy and picky eater. I was also under a lot of stress, staying up way too late, and not snacking in between meals. Once I started increasing my calorie intake, my baby bump grew in size and I was able to thicken up my placenta. So if you’re a lazy or picky eater like me, eat up! There’s no excuse as being “too busy” to eat. A glass of milk or a bottle of Ensure is a great way to get extra calories in quickly. Ensure comes in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and butter pecan and if you think the bottled variety is too sweet like I do, make your own with Ensure Powder.
  • Eat healthy, wholesome foods. 
    • There’s no point in getting enough calories if it’s all from cheeseburgers and french fries (although you can totally indulge your cravings occasionally).
    • For a healthy placenta, plan to eat a diet full of fresh vegetables, fruits, protein, and whole grains during your pregnancy. A good way to know if you’re eating a balanced diet is to look at the colors on your plate. A good assortment of colors most often means you’re eating many different foods from different food groups, which is awesome for baby!
    • Moms are busy bees and remembering to take our daily prenatals is oftentimes a struggle. Sometimes it can even be easy to forget we took them when we already have (never double up ladies!).
    • What I like to do is lay out my vitamins for the next day after I finish taking the current’s day’s. I put them right where I do my work so they’re always in sight. Once they’re gone for the day, I go ahead and set aside tomorrow’s batch (I took Nature’s Bounty Healthy Mom Prenatal, 2 daily calcium and vitamin D supplements, and an iron supplement for anemia). Remember to drink lots of water with your vitamins to maximize absorption. I also recommend getting a weekly pill organizer if you’re out of the house a lot, like this one from Pillnut7. It’s a compact container that’s still able to hold large quantities so if you have to take multiple pills, they’ll all fit neatly inside.Remember to take your daily prenatals (including other prescribed vitamins and medications).

  • Avoid high-risk activities such as extreme sports.
  • Lessen stress.
    • Take frequent breaks, especially if you feel fatigued.
  • Don’t do any heavy lifting.
    • A thin placenta is delicate! Take good care of it! Heavy lifting can cause disruption of the placenta from the uterine wall so steer clear of heavy lifting and always ask for help.
  • Decrease caffeine intake.
    • Caffeine is present in coffee, soda, tea, and even chocolate (I know, all the things we love!). You should limit yourself to one small serving of caffeine a day or if you could, avoid it altogether. Another great alternative is decaf.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or do drugs.
    • Sure, that margarita might sound tempting especially after the strenuous and taxing work of making a baby, but it’s best to wait for later (I know you can do it moms!). Again, like smoking, alcohol and other drugs reduce blood flow to the baby. Additionally, babies born to mothers who abuse drugs are born addicted to drugs and develop major health problems. It’s just not worth it. If you find it hard to quit, please talk to your doctor. Your doctor should not berate you if you come to them with your concerns to quit. If they do, find another doctor. Your doctor should be there for you to guide you so that you can quit and do it safely to reduce any possible withdrawal.

A thin placenta shouldn’t cause too much concern, but depending on your pregnancy’s unique set of risks, it’s best to take extra care to protect and nourish your placenta.

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