Everything about placenta
The ability to grow and support life in our bodies is a miracle.
Pregnant women work hard for almost a year to bring a new person into the world.
Did you know that not only will you have a baby, but a whole new organ as well?
That’s right, the placenta is a temporary organ that only grows during pregnancy and is vital for transporting oxygen, blood, antibodies, and nutrients to the growing fetus.
How does the placenta develop?
Growing a placenta is a collective effort that develops from both the pregnant person’s tissues and that of the fetus.
In the early days of development before implantation, the fertilized egg, known as a zygote, goes through a complex process of cell division in the fallopian tubes. The zygote then moves to the uterus to prepare for implantation, where it becomes a blastocyst. This is when some cells continue to develop the fetus while others work on the placenta.
While the placenta does not reach full maturity until the thirty-fourth week, it is considered to be formed in the 12th week of pregnancy.
In a normal pregnancy, the placenta sticks to the uterine wall while the umbilical cord comes out the other side and connects to the developing fetus at its navel. There are certain conditions, such as a potentially life-threatening rupture of the placenta, that can cause the placenta to detach from the uterine wall.
When the placenta is fully developed, it usually weighs between 12 and 20 ounces.
With twins or more, a pregnant person can have multiple placentas. While identical twins share one placenta, fraternal multiples typically have more than one placenta. It is even possible for pregnancies with a baby to have two placentas if one of the fetuses is no longer developing.
What does the placenta do?
The placenta is vital not only to support the developing fetus, but also to the pregnant person.
You probably know that the placenta helps provide nutrients and oxygen to the pregnant person, but that’s not all.
The placenta acts as a waste management system for the fetus by removing carbon dioxide and waste from its bloodstream and putting it back into your bloodstream. It also helps protect the fetus from infection while giving it antibodies from its parents to help build its immune system.
This magical organ also secretes essential pregnancy hormones like oxytocin, progesterone, estrogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – which is detected during a pregnancy test.
Towards the end of the first trimester, the placenta takes over the task of supplying the pregnant person with progesterone. Progesterone is the key to curbing morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting. Because of this, morning sickness is often reduced or ends around this time in pregnancy.
What happens to the placenta?
It may seem strange to grow an entire organ for a relatively short period of time – but that’s exactly what happens.
Just like giving birth to a baby, the placenta must also be delivered. Usually the placenta is delivered within an hour after the baby is born. Most people who give vaginal delivery say that the placenta is much less intense after a baby is born. Just like in the other stages of labor, the uterus contracts to clear the placenta from the wall of the uterus and give birth. Your provider can manipulate the umbilical cord to bring the placenta out.
In some cases, bleeding or excessive bleeding may occur at the placental implant site after delivery. This can happen when the uterus doesn’t contract enough to close the blood vessels where the placenta was. In this case, the provider may use drugs such as pharmaceutical grade oxytocin to encourage uterine contractions and / or some other procedure.
During a caesarean section, the OB removes the placenta during the procedure.
Depending on the person giving birth and the baby’s needs, some people choose to hold the baby by the placenta by delaying the pinching and cutting of the string. This can take a few minutes for the umbilical cord to loosen naturally – like a “lotus birth”.
What happens to the placenta?
Some people choose to keep their placenta after giving birth. It depends on placenta health, cultural practices, and personal beliefs.
Here are just a few ways people use their placenta after giving birth:
- Art: People make prints of their placenta, usually on butcher paper, and save them as keepsakes.
- EAT it: Like many other animals, some people choose to eat their placenta. You can use it fresh or save little things. Some people even choose to add it to a postpartum smoothie.
- Encapsulation: This is a process of drying the placenta and then pouring it into pills. Some people claim this helps with postpartum health, energy, and mood balancing.
- Bury it: Others choose to bury it in a ceremony to complete the birth and honor the organ that supported it.
- Nothing: You may not want to have anything to do with the placenta after you come out, and that’s perfectly fine!
While there isn’t much scientific evidence to back up the benefits of taking placenta, many people swear by it. Anecdotal evidence is powerful, but it’s important that you research and ask.
If you’re not squeamish, we recommend doing a quick image search to see what a placenta looks like. They are actually quite beautiful! Some people say that the veins on it resemble a tree of life design. See for yourself!