Suspected placenta problems are usually the trigger that make many pregnant women realize the vital role the placenta plays in the care of their developing baby. This miraculous organ functions as the baby's lifeline, the sole source of nutrients and oxygen. It's their provider and protector, filtering out harmful waste products. Through this connection, mother and baby are tethered, bonded together on the journey toward birth.
After conception, the baby is initially nourished from within its yolk sac as the placenta forms from cells identical to your baby's. As it grows, it slowly takes over to support your baby's growth and development after about the 12th week. It attaches to the uterine wall and the umbilical cord develops on the opposite side.
In the vast majority of expectant women, the placenta forms and grows properly, just as it should. In a minority of cases, however, the placenta may attach too low in the uterus or malfunction, especially as it ages. The most commonly diagnosed placental problems include:
After the baby is born, the placenta slowly stops functioning as the baby's own circulation system takes over. The placenta will usually detach from the uterine wall spontaneously within 30 minutes of the birth. The umbilical cord commonly pulsates anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes after the birth, depending on whether the mother received drugs in labor. The placenta may be taken for testing after a birth if complications were observed or suspected to determine their source. If none are suspected, then the mother may choose to claim her placenta.
Many families choose to keep the placenta and plant a birth tree, to grow as their child grows, and plant the placenta at its roots to commemorate its role in sustaining their child's life.
Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE
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