What if you have just had your second-trimester ultrasound, only to be told that you have a low-lying placenta, that is dangerously close to your cervix? A “diagnosis” of a low-lying placenta can bit a bit scary, particularly if you are seeing a gynecologist who thinks it is oh so necessary to immediately tell you that you will “probably need a c-section”. What is the deal with a low-lying placenta in the second trimester of pregnancy? Will you really need to have a surgical birth? What is the difference between low-lying placenta in the second trimester, and a placenta previa?  What can you do if you have been told you have a low-lying placenta in the second trimester?

Both me and a friend had this “diagnosis” of a low-lying placenta during our first pregnancies. We were pregnant at the same time, and had ultrasounds in the second trimester – both of us were really excited about the possibility of finding out the gender of our babies at that scan. Within weeks of each other, my friend was first told that she had a “low-lying placenta, which will probably mean a c-section for you”. At that point, the placenta was not even covering the cervix – a condition which is known as placenta previa and which means that the placenta is physically blocking the birth canal, meaning the baby cannot pass through.

When I went for my ultrasound a few weeks later, I was also told I had a low-lying placenta. All scared, I asked, “Does that mean I need a c-section?” because that is what my friend was told. My gynecologist started laughing and asked if I were kidding. Apparently, a low-lying placenta is not at all an uncommon occurrence during the second trimester. It does not mean that the placenta will go on to become a complete previa. Quite the opposite, in fact. If a placenta covers the cervix during the second trimester, it is less likely to “move out the way” later on, but it can happen. As the uterus grows, the location of the placenta will be higher in comparison to the cervix. If your placenta is located relatively close to the cervix, it will most likely not be low-lying any more. Don’t start worrying about a low-lying placenta until well into the third trimester of your pregnancy.

For more second trimester topics, see second trimester bleeding – what could it be? and a no nonsense guide to maternity wear.