The Forgotten Life Line
The placenta is an often-misunderstood organ. It’s built in the secret confines of your womb and is rarely given a second thought. The placenta plays a pivotal role in your baby’s gestation, acting as the baby’s lifeline and lungs throughout your pregnancy. Your placenta also puts the breaks on your milk production until after it is birthed. Let’s dig down a bit more into what the placenta is and how it works.
The placenta is a flat oval organ.
The placenta is an organ that functions as an endocrine gland, secreting hormones such as hCG, estrogen, and progesterone. Your baby rests inside a layered sac next to the placenta. Although you mostly just hear about the Amniotic Sac, there are actually two layers, the Amnion and the Chorion. The amnion is the innermost layer next to the baby and is filled with fluid that provides your baby protection from external life, such as bumps and knocks. The chorion is the outermost side and connects with an abundance of small placenta villi (finger-like structures) that collect oxygen and nutrients from the mother to send directly to the baby’s blood supply via the umbilical cord.
Clusters of dangling grapes, hung over a tub of water. Each cluster has a string attached to it that connects and is woven together in the center, creating the umbilical cord. These grapes suck up the mother’s nutrient-filled blood and send it through the string.
The umbilical cord
The umbilical cord contains 2 arteries and 1 vein and connects the baby to the placenta. Through the umbilical cord, the baby sends used blood and waste (such as carbon dioxide) back to the placenta to be absorbed into the maternal blood and eliminated by the mother. The mother's blood then sends oxygen and nutrient-rich blood back to baby.
Every minute of every day, your placenta delivers an entire pint of blood (almost 500 ml) to your uterus to exchange nutrients, acting as the lungs of your baby, delivering 100% of their oxygen requirements.
The placenta is your baby’s lifeline.
The placentas major functions are to supply the baby with oxygen and nutrients from the maternal blood supply and remove waste and carbon dioxide from the baby into the mother's blood supply. This exchange happens through the umbilical cord, which is attached to the center of the placenta.
The placenta is shared by both mom and baby - with 50% of the cells belonging to mom and 50% of the cells belonging to baby. Even though the maternal blood and the baby’s blood are both found very close together in the placenta, they never mix. This is because of layers of cells called the placental barrier. The barrier starts out as 4 layers and decreases to 2 layers by the 4th month of pregnancy.
The Placenta is a “New Organ.”
You are born with all your organs. The placenta is created after you become pregnant. Soon after conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg, a blastocyst is formed. This blastocyst is a collection of two types of cells which in turn develop into the baby and the placenta. Soon after the blastocyst implants in the uterus, the umbilical cord starts to arise from it.
Even though the placenta is created inside the mother, the father’s genetics take greater responsibility for making the placenta. So, in some ways, the placenta is the father’s organ.
The birth of the placenta triggers milk.
Your body will not lactate (produce milk) until after the birth of the placenta. During pregnancy, your body will start making colostrum (a highly nutrient-dense milk) for baby, but it isn't until after the birth of the placenta that the milk production happens. When the placenta is expelled, the production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk, is triggered. It is important to allow the placenta to dispel on its own, so that no pieces are left behind. Pieces left behind may delay the production of milk, cause infection, and lead to uterine hemorrhage.
Your placenta is considered the only “vegan meat” and can be consumed. Anecdotal evidence says that consuming a placenta aids in the increase of milk production and supply.
Some people choose to consume their placenta, the most popular form of consumption is through encapsulation. Encapsulation is said to have many benefits to mother and baby. Tinctures can be made and saved for later on as well, these tinctures support woman during menstruation or menopause. Click the button bellow to read more.
How did you treat the birth of your placenta? Did you get a tour of your amazing organ? and what did you choose to do with your placenta? I would love to hear your responses.