Placenta- The Life Source of Your Unborn Baby

As an expectant mother, it is no surprise that you’ve heard about the placenta. An essential part of your baby’s nutrition, the placenta provides all your baby’s needs and acts as a connector between you and your growing fetus. Let’s delve deep into what this magnificent organ is and why it is crucial.

What Is a Placenta?

The placenta is an organ that develops in your uterus when you become pregnant. It attaches itself on the lining of your womb and will only detach during the delivery of your baby.  

Usually, it attaches at the top, the side, the front or the back of the uterus. In some cases, the placenta can attach at the bottom, even blocking the cervix. This instance is called placenta previa and may prevent a vaginal birth.

What Does the Placenta Do?

A placenta extends to your growing baby through the umbilical cord. This way, it’s able to perform its designated roles. These are:

  •   Supply oxygen and nutrients to your baby
  •   Pass the mother’s antibodies for immunity in the last trimester
  •   Carry waste products such as carbon dioxide from your baby for disposal
  •   Protect your baby from bacteria and other infections
  •   Produce hormones that enable growth and development

Note however that the placenta does not protect your baby against alcohol, drugs or viruses such as flu or HIV. It’s therefore important to seek your doctor’s advice regarding their treatment. 

Can a Placenta Develop Complications?

Various instances can lead to poor health of a placenta and understanding what they are might help you to know how best to take care of it. Such are:

  •   Abdominal trauma caused by a fall or a blow 
  •   Previous placenta problems
  •   Drug abuse 
  •   High blood pressure
  •   Multiple pregnancies
  •   Women above the age of 40
  •   Previous uterine surgery 
  •   Blood-clotting problems 

What Problems Affect the Placenta?

There are problems associated with placenta complications. These  include:

  •   Placenta previa – occurs when the placenta covers the cervix either partially or entirely, and can prevent vaginal birth.
  •   Placental abruption (abruptio placentae) – involves the placenta breaking away from the wall of the uterus before delivery. It might require an emergency cesarean if it happens.
  •   Retained placenta – occurs in instances where the placenta isn’t delivered within 30 minutes after the third phase of labour. Such cases can cause blood loss if they are not treated immediately. 
  •   Placenta accreta – occurs when part of the placenta remains attached to the uterine wall after delivery. Its occurrence may require immediate surgery.

Signs of Placenta Complications

Look out for these signs to know when to have your placenta checked:

  •   Abdominal pain
  •   Vaginal bleeding
  •   Uterine contractions
  •   Back pain

Once your baby is born, the placenta is also delivered as afterbirth. With no more use, it is often discarded. Some mothers may consider eating the placenta with claims of its nutritional value. There is, however, no evidence of such claims.


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: nhs, mayoclinic

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