The placenta develops in the uterus during pregnancy. It provides oxygen and nutrients for the developing fetus and cleanses the waste in fetal blood.
About a week after conception, as the fertilized egg, or blastocyst, nestles into your uterine wall, it begins forming the placenta, often called the “tree of life.” The placenta is a vital link between you and the burgeoning fetus, providing your growing baby with nourishment and oxygen, while disposing of waste and protecting against dangerous toxins.
By the eighth week of your pregnancy, the placenta begins producing estrogen and progesterone, which help maintain and regulate your pregnancy; and baby becomes completely dependant on the placenta for food and oxygen by the 12th week. The placenta grows with your baby, reaching a diameter of 10 inches and a thickness of 1 inch by the time you are full-term (40 weeks).
Your placenta provides your baby:
- with oxygenated blood.
- with nutrients, vitamins, and inorganic salts from your blood.
- with waste disposal. Carbon dioxide and waste is transferred to your blood and filtered through your kidneys.
- protection from many illnesses and substances in your body that might harm your baby.
- with hormones that prepare your baby's organs for life on the outside.
Although your blood carries nutrients to your baby and transports wastes away, your blood doesn’t actually mix with your baby’s. The placenta acts as a blood filter, with your blood and your baby’s separated by a thin membrane that allows oxygen, nutrients, and waste to cross, but keeps the blood from ever mixing. This explains how you may have a different blood type than your baby without causing any problems.
As soon as you have delivered your baby, your placenta begins separating from your uterine wall, causing light contractions. Delivering the placenta is the third stage of labor, and usually happens within one hour of your baby’s birth. Although you may feel like you don’t have the energy to push after delivering your baby, your placenta is relatively easy to deliver since it is soft and pliable. Once your placenta is out your doctor will inspect it for problems and you can relax and get to know your new baby.
What affects the health of the placenta?
Many factors affect the placenta during pregnancy, and some may change, some may not. We have the following agents:
- Maternal age: Some placental problems are more common in older women, especially after the age of 40.
- Early rupture of membranes: During pregnancy, the baby's mother is surrounded by a fluid-filled membrane called the amniotic sac. If it leaks or breaks before the mother goes into labor, the risk of each other's problems increases
- Hypertension: A mother with hypertension affects the placenta.
- Twins or triplets pregnancy: If the mother is pregnant with more than one baby, the risk of a problematic placenta increases.
- Blood coagulation disorder: Any condition that weakens blood clotting or increases clotting ability increases the risk of specific placental problems.
- Previous uterine surgery: If a mother has had surgical intervention in the uterus, such as a cesarean section or fibroid surgery, she is at high risk of problems with the placenta.
- Past placental problems: If there was a placental problem in the previous pregnancy, there is a high risk of having the same issues.
- Drug abuse: Some placental problems are common in women who smoke or use illegal drugs such as cocaine during pregnancy.
- Abdominal trauma: A abdominal injury such as a fall or other collision increases the risk of a placenta being separated from the uterus (removal of the placenta)
Common problems of the placenta
During pregnancy, possible problems include placental abruption, placenta praevia, and Interdental Placenta. These problems can cause severe vaginal bleeding. Here is the information you need to know about these issues:
- Placental abruption: If the placenta breaks off from the wall of the uterus before birth, either partially or entirely, it would deprive the baby's oxygen and nutrition supply, and cause the mother to bleed severely. Premature abruption of the placenta leads to an emergency requiring the early delivery of the baby.
- Placenta previa: It happens when the placenta fills the cervix partially or. Placenta praevia usually appears in the early months of pregnancy and may improve as the uterus grows. The placenta praevia can cause severe vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and labor. Managing this depends on the amount of blood loss. If the placenta praevia persists during the last trimester of pregnancy, the obstetrician will recommend a cesarean section.
- Interdental Placenta: It happens when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow deep into the uterine wall. Typically, the placenta separates itself from the wall of the uterus after birth. But in exceptional cases, the part of the whole placenta still sticks to the uterus, causing severe blood loss after childbirth.
Finally, how is the placenta expelled?
If giving birth frequently, the placenta will also be pushed through the vagina - in the third stage of labor. After birth, there is still a slight uterine attack. Doctors will use oxytocin (Pitocin) to reduce postpartum bleeding, and the doctor will also massage the lower abdomen to stimulate the uterus to contract and expel the placenta. The woman will be asked to push again to expel the placenta.
The doctor will check to make sure the placenta is still intact. Any falling part must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If desired, the woman requested to see the placenta. In some cultures, families bury the placenta in a particular place, such as a backyard.