Defective implantation and placentation: laying the blueprint for pregnancy complications

Reprod Biomed Online. 2006 Oct;13(4):591-9. doi: 10.1016/s1472-6483(10)60649-9.


Normal implantation and placentation is critical for pregnancy success. Many pregnancy-related complications that present late in gestation (such as pre-eclampsia and preterm labour) appear to have their origins early in pregnancy with abnormalities in implantation and placental development. Implantation is characterized by invasion of the maternal tissues of the uterus by fetal trophoblast, and the degree to which trophoblast invades these tissues appears to be a major determinant of pregnancy outcome. Excessive invasion can lead to abnormally firm attachment of the placenta to the myometrium (placenta accreta) with increased maternal and perinatal morbidity. Inadequate invasion, specifically restricted endovascular invasion, has been implicated in the pathophysiology of such conditions as pre-eclampsia (gestational proteinuric hypertension), preterm premature rupture of membranes, preterm labour, and intrauterine growth restriction. The molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for implantation remain enigmatic. This review will include an overview of implantation followed by a discussion of a number of molecular mechanisms implicated in defective implantation and placentation including the role of decidual prostaglandins and haemorrhage in regulating trophoblast invasion. An improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for abnormal implantation and placentation will likely improve clinicians' abilities to treat disorders that occur along this continuum, including infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, pre-eclampsia, and preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Embryo Implantation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Placentation / physiology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Premature Birth
  • Prostaglandins / physiology
  • Trophoblasts / pathology
  • Uterine Hemorrhage / physiopathology


  • Prostaglandins