What Is Placenta, How Does It Work and Why Is It There?

Most of those who become pregnant still don’t know what placenta is, while this organ is extremely important.

I am not saying that you must know what placenta is when you want to become pregnant 😀

But if you want to know what is going on in your body as a pregnant woman, you must know more about the pregnancy-related topics, specially placenta.

Knowing about placenta helps you to have more peace of mind while pregnancy.

You will have less stress when you know more.

What Is Placenta?

In simple words, placenta takes the nutrients and oxygen from your blood, and transfers them to your baby.

Indeed, placenta delivers oxygen and nutrients to your baby’s blood.

It also takes CO2 and harmful substances from the baby’s blood, and transfers them to your blood.

Without placenta, your baby can’t live in your uterus.

Your baby needs food and oxygen to survive for nine months in your uterus.

And so, placenta’s responsibility is so important and vital for the health of your baby.

Placenta lives with your baby inside your uterus.

It grows with your baby.

So, placenta is the first friend your baby has in his/her life 🙂

Where Does Placenta Come From?

You don’t have it in your body when you are not pregnant.

Placenta is not like kidneys or heart that anybody has to have to survive.

Men don’t have placenta.

Non-pregnant women also have no placenta in their bodies.

Indeed, placenta is not yours as the mother.

It comes with the baby or fetus.

Placenta forms with fetus. It is part of the fetus.

So its genetic is exactly the same as the fetus or baby.

Your immune system doesn’t know the placenta that forms in your uterus.

I mean placenta is stranger to your body’s immune system, exactly like viruses or bacteria.

If any of the placenta cells enter your blood circulation, they trigger the immune reactions.

They can cause your body to produce antibody against the placenta antigens that are the same as your baby’s antigens.

However, this usually never happens under the normal conditions, otherwise it can be dangerous for your baby.

How Does Placenta Work?

Placenta is like the root that comes out of a germinating seed.

Once the fetus sticks to the uterus inner surface, placenta starts growing and penetrating inside the uterus wall which is also known as endometrium.

At the other side of placenta, it is connected to the baby’s body through the umbilical cord.

There is blood circulation inside placenta which is the same as your baby’s blood circulation, and it works by the baby’s heart.

Through the baby’s blood circulation, CO2 and harmful substances of the baby’s blood reach the placenta’s roots that have penetrated into the uterus wall.

In that area, CO2 and harmful substances leave the baby’s blood through a very special physical reaction which is called osmotic phenomenon.

This is done automatically and without any special biochemical reaction.

Once they leave the baby’s blood, they enter the mother’s blood through the uterus veins.

At the same time, oxygen and nutrients leave the mother’s blood and enter the baby’s through placenta.

Then they reach the baby’s body through the veins and umbilical cord.

This process is ongoing all the time and nonstop.

What Happens to Placenta After the Childbirth?

A few minutes after the baby, it gets disconnected from the uterus wall (endometrium) and gets out of the mother’s uterus, in case of natural birth.

But in case of Cesarean section, gynecologist takes it out of uterus.

In some cases, placenta stays there after labor. This can cause problems for mother.

Placenta Cells

Placenta cells are the same as fetus cells, as I explained above.

I mean they have the same genetic materials or DNA.

Therefore, they can be a great source of stem cells that can be used for baby in future.

That’s why some people keep the placenta cells by the special cell banks, so that in case baby needs cells in future, for example in case of cancer, he/she can use them.

Placenta cells are fresh and healthy and can multiply too fast.

They can be frozen and kept for years, in the liquid nitrogen tank and under some very special conditions.

Before the delivery, they will ask you whether you want them to do it for you or not. There is a yearly fee for it.

Placenta Problems

Although placenta is vital for the baby, it can cause problems and complications as well.

The most important complications that placenta can cause are related to its position inside the uterus.

Some of these problems are dangerous for baby, some for mother, and some for both:

1. Placenta Previa

Placenta PreviaPlacenta previa is maybe the most famous among the placenta complications and problems.

It is dangerous both for baby and mother.

This complication occurs when placenta blocks the cervix, either completely or partially.

If it lasts until the delivery day, then there is no way but C-section, because it is impossible to have natural delivery under such a condition.

But this is not all the problem that this complication can cause.

Sometimes it causes severe vaginal bleeding that can be risky or annoying for mother, and also risky for baby.

Sometimes, there is placenta previa problem at the beginning of pregnancy, but it doesn’t last to the end, which is good.

Fortunately, it is possible to track all of these through sonography.

Your gynecologist will tell you that you have such a problem, and what strategies they will have to take to take care of you and the baby.

So, there is nothing to be worried about.

Why Does Placenta Previa Occur?

We don’t know. It happens sometimes.

When fetus goes to the uterus on the first days of pregnancy, and wants to find a place to stick to the endometrium, it can be placed anywhere.

If it places somewhere close to the cervix, then the placenta development in that area can cause placenta previa.

So we can say that it happens randomly, and it has nothing to do with the genetics of mother or baby, and also other factors.

Therefore, if you happened to have this problem in one pregnancy, it doesn’t mean that you are going to have it in your following pregnancies as well.

We have talked about this problem in more detail on the home page of this site here.

We will talk about it more, because it is the main focus of this website, while we also cover all the other pregnancy related topics.

2. Placental Abruption

Placental AbruptionAs I explained above, placenta sticks to the uterus wall or endometrium to become able to exchange nutrients, oxygen and CO2.

But after delivery, it detaches from endometrium and gets out of uterus.

What happens if it detaches from endometrium during pregnancy and while baby still needs to receive nutrients and oxygen?

It can be too dangerous for baby.

The most important symptom of placental abruption is vaginal bleeding, because in this complication, placenta detaches from endometrium, and so blood starts getting out from veins and arteries of that area, exactly like when your skin is cut and you are wounded.

It can be dangerous of mother as well.

Therefore, if you see bleeding during pregnancy, you must refer to the hospital’s emergency immediately.

3. Placenta Accreta

This is also such an annoying complication.

As I explained above, after the delivery or childbirth, placenta has nothing else to do anymore, and has to leave the mother’s body.

The placenta mission ends when baby gets out.

But in some cases, placenta doesn’t detach the endometrium, maybe because it is deeply and strongly attached, which is so unusual.

So it stays there, and it cause lots of bleeding during the delivery, and ends to surgery to take the placenta out.

You will most probably have to go for C-section, and in case the uterus is damaged by placenta, they will have to remove that as well.

The more severe cases of deep placenta attachment to the endometrium are called Increta and Percreta:

Different Levels of Placenta Attachment to Endometrium

4. Retained Placenta

This complication occurs when placenta stays in the uterus after childbirth.

You can guess what you will be faced with, if this happens.

The first and most probable thing is infection, because there are bacteria there.

After the delivery, the uterus has to be emptied, so that it can recover itself and get ready for the next pregnancy.

This is the nature of uterus.

Placenta is an stranger there, as I explained earlier in this article.

It doesn’t belong to the mother’s body. It has to get out.

If it doesn’t, it causes bleeding and infection which can be too risky for mother.

But Placenta Is Your Friend 🙂

Fortunately, it rarely happens nowadays that mothers die because of the problems I explained above.

The reason is that most of these problems can be easily diagnosed during the early stages of pregnancy, and before delivery.

Those problems and complications that happen after the delivery, like Retained Placenta, can be easily resolved through surgery, antibiotic therapy and blood transfusion.

What you must take it seriously is that you should not ignore any vaginal bleeding, pain and fever during the pregnancy.

You must immediately refer to emergency room in case of any vaginal bleeding.

Do you have any questions or comments?

Please use the form below to leave a comment or in case you liked the above article, please let other mothers know it and tell them that now you know a lot more about placenta after reading the above article 🙂

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