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The placenta is a temporary organ that forms
inside of your uterus during pregnancy. It
helps to nourish your baby and flushes out
excess wastes that form throughout the
three trimesters of pregnancy. Often referred
to as the afterbirth, the placenta is formed
out of the same cells that your baby forms
out of. The placenta is flat and shaped like a
pancake, and has two sides: one side (known
as the maternal side) attaches firmly to the
inside wall of your uterus; the other side (the
fetal side) faces the baby and provides him
with nourishment through the umbilical cord.
What does the Placenta do?
The placenta has a number of different
functions throughout pregnancy:
Nutrient and Oxygen supply
The main function of the placenta is to support your baby throughout the first, second,
and third trimesters of pregnancy. Without the placenta, your baby would not be able to
receive the oxygen and nutrients that she needs to ensure healthy development. The fetal
side of the placenta has made up of thousands of crisscrossing blood vessels. These blood
vessels contain your baby's blood and waste products. The maternal side of the placenta
has made up of pools of your blood, which contain the oxygen and nutrients that your
baby needs to survive. The placenta acts as transfer agent, helping to transfer the
oxygen and nutrients from your blood to your baby's blood vessels. Meanwhile, your baby's
waste is transferred from her blood vessels into your bloodstream. At no time does your
blood ever mix with your baby's blood.
The placenta also offers hormonal support throughout your pregnancy. It releases
estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) into your bloodstream.
These hormones help to ensure that your body goes through the proper changes during
In order to make sure that your baby does not absorb any waste or chemicals from your
blood, the placenta acts as a filter to keep these things out of your baby's system.
However, the placenta does not provide complete protection from all dangerous products:
cigarette smoke, alcohol and certain medications can cross the placenta.
Monitoring the Placenta
Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will monitor the health and
development of your placenta. This has done during ultrasound examinations. In particular,
your health care provider will look for:
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Placental Grade: Placental grade refers to the age of the placenta. The age of
the placenta can be determined by the number of white spots (calcifications) found
on the surface of the organ. If your placenta has too many of these calcifications
for your baby's age, it could be a sign that your placenta is aging too quickly.
Placental Location: Your health care provider will also examine where your
placenta has attached to your uterus.…read more
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China: The Chinese view the placenta as a life-giving force. Therefore, it is dried
and added to certain placenta recipes in order to increase a person's energy and
Africa: In certain African nations, the placenta has swaddled in blankets and buried
beneath a tree. This tree symbolizes ongoing life.
When you give birth, you may decide to keep your placenta or donate it to medical
science. Alternatively, you may decide to follow one of the traditions that your own
culture has regarding the placenta.…read more