What is a placenta? Most people have heard about it and have some ideas of what it does, yet not everybody knows precisely that it has a key role.
This role consists in ensuring the healthy development of a baby in the womb. The placenta is an organ attached to the lining of the womb that starts getting formed right after the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. It's made of two components: the maternal tissue, which is derived from maternal uterine tissue, and the foetal placenta, developed from the inner cell mass that forms the foetus.
The placenta establishes a link between you and your child that will last until birth and that will allow for many necessary functions throughout these wonderful nine months. Our purpose in the following lines is to offer you some vital information regarding this foetal organ, so that you can get the facts related to the placenta in any pregnancy.
The placenta, more than just a supplier
The placenta's main goal is to nourish your baby, passing nutrients and oxygen from your blood flow into the placenta. The umbilical cord, which connects the growing baby with the human placenta, carries those nutrients and oxygen to him and, at the same time, it serves the purpose of passing back those unwanted products, like carbon dioxide, into your placenta and then into your bloodstream, so that you can dispose them through your kidneys.
Moreover, the placenta is in charge of producing essential hormones for your baby's normal development, and it protects your future child from bacteria and infections while he's in the womb. That said, it can't fight viruses and the effect of pernicious substances that could damage the foetus, like nicotine and alcohol. Finally, you have to know that the placenta is crucial when it comes to building up your baby's immune system, as it passes antibodies directly from you that will give him the necessary immunity for when he leaves the womb.
How does the placenta develop during pregnancy?
When does the placenta form and how does it develop? As noted at the beginning of the text, it starts getting formed a week or so after fertilisation takes place, and the process coincides in time with the embryo settling down in the uterus. From that point on, this organ has a 'life expectancy' of around 40 weeks, in which it has to provide for your child. It doesn't stop growing until the last stage of your pregnancy, reaching a size of about 15 to 20 cm in diameter and a weight of 450 to 550 grams.
Past the 41st week of pregnancy, the placenta may deteriorate and stop working well, which is known as aging of the placenta.
What can affect the placenta's health?
There are different factors that can have a negative impact on this organ, leading to placenta problems. These are the most common ones:
- The age factor, because those women who are over 40 years old are more likely to suffer from placental complications.
- High blood pressure.
- The premature rupture of the amniotic sac is also associated with placenta problems.
- Having a multiple pregnancy.
- Conditions and disorders that trigger blood clots while having a baby on the way.
- If you underwent uterine surgery in the past, for example a previous C-section.
- Doing drugs like cocaine or smoking during pregnancy.
- Having an abdominal trauma resulting from a fall or a blow.
- If you experienced placental problems in a previous pregnancy.
What happens during birth?
During birth, not only will you have to push your baby out of the womb, but the placenta as well. Basically, the 'whole package'. Of course, your child will take the lead (after such long nine months, who can blame him?), but the medical staff won't consider that delivery is over until your body expels this organ (all of it! As there are times when parts of the placenta are left behind).
If you have trouble pushing the placenta out, you may be given medication or a an abdominal massage to stimulate contractions once your baby is born. Such contractions will cause the placenta to come away from your uterine wall, which will also keep you from having severe bleeding. The placenta is usually delivered in five minutes or so, but in some cases it can take up to half an hour. If you happen to need a C-section, your placenta will be removed from your womb during the surgical procedure.
Pregnancy complications related to the placenta
While being pregnant, you may develop different complications related to the placenta and that may cause you symptoms, such as heavy vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain and severe back pain, among others.
The most common ones include:
- Placental abruption, when the placenta peels away from the uterine wall before going into labour;
- Placenta previa, when the placenta is covering the cervix, either partially or totally;
- Placenta accreta, when the placenta doesn't attach properly to the wall of the womb;
- Retained placenta, which occurs when you aren't able to deliver the placenta within 30 to 60 minutes after your baby is born;
- Anterior placenta, when it's not implanted in the usual part of the uterus.
Hopefully, you can now answer the question 'what is the placenta?' very well. Its job is vital, as it connects your child to you, allowing him to grow and develop inside your body by taking just what's needed from it. Taking all of this into consideration, when you get to see your placenta, don't be revolted by it, because it will have made your baby's life possible!