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The placental pathology report

Drucilla J Roberts, MD
Section Editors
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Rochelle L Garcia, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


The placenta (picture 1) has been called a pregnancy diary that permits the clinician to study the intrauterine environment of the fetus and some of the fetal responses to disease. Its examination is an essential component of the autopsy in cases of fetal or neonatal death, provides insights about the pathogenesis of adverse fetal and neonatal outcomes, and often gives useful information for diagnosis and treatment of sick newborns.

This topic will provide a brief synopsis of the clinical significance of selected placental histopathologic findings that are reported by placental pathologists. A detailed discussion of placental histopathology is beyond the scope of this review.

The normal anatomy and gross examination of the placenta are discussed separately. (See "Gross examination of the placenta".)


Placental pathology offers insight into both acute and chronic events. We believe that all placentas should have a minimal examination including color, length of umbilical cord, number of cord vessels, and weight of the trimmed placental disk. Complete gross and histopathologic examination of the placenta should be obtained when clinically indicated. At a minimum, the author believes the following clinical scenarios require a full pathologic examination of the placenta:

Stillbirth (current or past)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 12, 2017.
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