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Your Placenta


During pregnancy, your body creates a temporary organ called the placenta. The placenta is necessary during pregnancy in order for your baby to grow and be healthy. After the birth of your baby, your doctor or midwife will also have you deliver the placenta, as it is no longer needed.

The placenta is created during the first trimester but is not fully functional until the second trimester when it takes over all the nutrient production and waste management for the baby. The placenta is both genetically and biologically composed of two equal parts from the fetus and the mother. It is connected to the uterine wall and connected to the baby through the umbilical cord. It receives nutrients and oxygen and filters out any waste from the mother’s blood before delivering the blood to the baby via the umbilical cord.

Until the placenta takes over, a woman naturally produces progesterone to keep the baby viable. As soon as the placenta takes over it starts creating its own progesterone to sustain the pregnancy. After delivery of the placenta the cord is clamped near the baby and cut off permanently disconnecting the baby from the placenta. The entrance of the umbilical cord into the baby’s body later becomes the baby’s belly button.

Some cultures practice placentophagy which is the eating of the placenta. Those who do this believe that eating the placenta helps prevent postpartum depression and other complications. However, modern doctors and midwives do not believe that eating the placenta will actually help reduce the occurrence of postpartum depression.

In some pregnancies, placenta previa can occur. Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta covers at least part of the cervix, which is the opening that the baby will come through when born vaginally. This happens in about one of every 200 pregnancies. There are 3 types of placenta previa.

  • Complete
    Complete placenta previa is the placenta covering the entire cervix. This can cause bleeding throughout the pregnancy, growth retardation and congenital defects in baby. It will also mean that a woman will need a c-section when it comes time to deliver her baby.
  • Partial
    Partial placenta previa is a partial covering of cervix is covered. This can be anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 of the cervix. This can also cause bleeding and may lead to a c-section.
  • Marginal
    Marginal placenta previa occurs when just a small portion, or just the edge of the cervix, is covered. In this case, as the pregnancy progresses, the placenta will generally move up and out of the way, allowing a clear passage for the baby to be born vaginally.

If you experience bleeding during your pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor and rule out the possibility of any bleeding being caused by placenta previa.

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