Read all about this amazing organ that a pregnant woman's body grows especially to nurture her developing baby. Also find out about placenta-related health issues in pregnancy and when you should be worried.
When you think about it, pregnancy is amazing; a miracle even when you consider that you're growing a brand new life within the confines of your womb. There is one organ that supports your little one right through your pregnancy that is also rather miraculous: the placenta.
The placenta is grown by a woman's body especially to support her pregnancy from beginning to end. It is the life-line that connects mommy and baby and protects and nurtures your little one in numerous ways.
This article is all about the placenta: its role in pregnancy and when you should be concerned that not all is well with the placenta, warranting medical attention.
What is the placenta?
The placenta is an organ specially grown in your uterus during pregnancy to support your developing baby. It is made up of the same cells as your baby is and attaches itself to the wall of your uterus, usually at the top or side.
Your placenta is also the starting point of your baby's umbilical cord, and it grows as your baby grows and as the amount of amniotic fluid increases.
After your baby is born, your placenta -- which by now is around the size of a dinner plate -- is also delivered. Some women opt to consume their placenta in the form of specially made pills. You can read all about placenta encapsulation and what it involves by following this link.
What does the placenta do?
Your growing baby gets all the oxygen and nutrients he needs via the placenta, throughout the duration of your pregnancy.
This happens because the placenta links your blood supply with your baby's, transferring everything he needs to grow and develop, directly to him. In fact, experts point out that during every minute of pregnancy, "around 550 millilitres of blood is pumped into the uterus to exchange enough nutrients with the placenta for your baby."
This is also why pregnant moms need to be careful about what they eat and drink during pregnancy, as well as the drugs they take, as these pass directly to their growing baby.
The placenta also produces hormones that help to trigger labor. But until the time is right for your baby's birth, the placenta secretes hormones such as progesterone and estrogen to prevent early labour.
This incredible organ also removes waste products from your baby's blood to yours, which your body disposes of. At the same time, it keeps your baby's and your blood separate, almost acting like a filter, which helps to protect your baby from infections and harmful substances.
According to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), towards the end of your pregnancy, "the placenta passes antibodies from you to your baby, giving them immunity for about three months after birth."
The placenta also works almost like a padding to cushion your baby while within your womb, and provides your little one with the perfect, unique environment to thrive and grow.
What are the factors that affect the health of your placenta and what are some of the more common placental problems faced by pregnant women? Keep reading on the next page to find out