During pregnancy the placenta plays a fundamental role, through it and the umbilical cord the baby maintains a connection with the mother and receives all it needs to grow.
But being an organ that only exists in our body when we are in the sweet wait, there are very few women who know for sure what the placenta is, what its function is in pregnancy and the factors that can affect this very special organ.
The placenta is a wonderful organ and for its functions it is considered almost perfect.
When we are expecting a baby, our body begins to prepare to host and ensure the development of the baby throughout the nine months of gestation.
One of the organs that begins to develop early in pregnancy to connect the mother to the baby, establish a welcoming environment and meet all its needs, is the placenta. What is the placenta? What is it for? What is its function? What is its structure?
The placenta is indispensable for the baby. Find out why!
What is placenta?
The placenta is a word that comes from Latin and means “circular cake”, because of the shape it takes in the womb, but what exactly is the placenta?
The placenta is an indispensable organ that develops during pregnancy to establish the vital connection between mother and baby, i.e. to provide the oxygen and nutrients needed during the 40 weeks of pregnancy.
The placenta is an ephemeral organ that develops exclusively in pregnant women.
It has a viscous, oval-shaped appearance that is attached to the uterus. It is about 25 centimetres in diameter, 2.5 centimetres thick and weighs about half a kilo as the end of pregnancy approaches.
The amazing thing about this organ is that it exists exclusively in pregnant women and it grows with the baby until the weeks before the birth, because it is also expelled after the birth of the baby.
How is the placenta formed?
And how is the placenta formed? The placenta develops from the same egg and sperm and begins to form from the moment the fertilized egg is implanted in the wall of the uterus.
When the cells that cover the embryo establish a connection between the mother’s body and the future baby.
Once this event occurs on the sixth day of fertilization, the placenta adheres to the wall of the uterus and from the fourth month of gestation becomes responsible for nurturing the baby.
The placenta produces estrogen and other female sex hormones to prepare the mother’s breasts for breastfeeding.
How is the placenta composed?
The placenta has two components: one comes from the transformation of the mucosa of the maternal uterus and the other comes from the embryo (trophoblast) to form the appropriate environment and provide nutrients through the umbilical cord that is attached to it.
The fetal side of the uterus is made up of hundreds of intertwined blood vessels, while the maternal side is the largest and is in contact with the uterine wall.
What binds the baby to the placenta that holds it?
Now that you know what the placenta is and how it’s made up, you should ask yourself, “How does the baby get all the nutrients that the mother’s blood carries?
Well, he does it through the umbilical cord.
This kind of vascular duct is the one that connects the baby with the placenta and is subject to the known “fetal face” of that organ. Through it, all the nutrients and oxygen that the baby needs to receive circulate, while at the same time the waste that the baby expels from the placenta returns.
To perform its function, the umbilical cord is made up of three blood vessels: two of them to ensure the circulation of the baby’s blood to the placenta and an artery to allow the blood to flow back to the baby.
Thanks to its perfect structure, it is not possible for the baby’s blood to mix with the mother’s blood.
The placenta evolves as the pregnancy progresses and adapts to the needs of the baby.
What is the function of the placenta during pregnancy?
In order to better understand what the placenta is, you must know that it plays an indispensable role throughout pregnancy.
For the baby, the placenta is the most important organ, as it is in charge of transmitting all the nutrients it needs and is the one that keeps it alive until the day of birth.
Once it adopts its definitive structure, the placenta facilitates the exchange of nutrients in the blood, such as oxygen and amniotic fluid as well as metabolic waste between the organism of lamma and the baby.
Most important functions of the placenta
The elements that carry the mother’s blood are able to meet the needs of respiration, nutrition and excretion of the baby during its development.
That is to say, the natural waste that the baby expels to eliminate and purify them. In addition to fulfilling these important functions, the placenta also takes care of:
- Nutritional: The placenta is an organ that nourishes the baby uninterruptedly during the nine months of its development. Through the mother’s blood flow, the baby can receive oxygen, proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates without the need for the mother to have eaten any food.
- Disposal of waste: The placenta acts as a filter between the mother and the baby, as it is responsible for keeping all the impure substances that the baby expels by its metabolism, away from its body, as well as purifying its blood.
- Endocrine Functions: When we talk about endocrine functions, we talk about making hormones, which allow the pregnancy to continue. They help to modify the mother’s physiological functions and create the most suitable environment for the baby’s development, as well as measuring tests and detecting pregnancy.
- Biological protection: Although the baby is exposed to external substances that the mother acquires such as alcohol, cigarette, caffeine, among other things, the placenta can protect the baby by preventing the passage of other harmful substances such as viruses, parasites and bacteria that can affect it.
- Physical Protection: Working in conjunction with the amniotic fluid bag, the placenta provides the baby with a cozy environment with an adequate temperature and a safe environment from external situations that may harm the baby, such as blows, sudden temperature changes and bacterial infections.
The placenta defends the fetus from the mother’s immune system and prevents it from attacking the fetus.
How does the placenta evolve during pregnancy?
As with any organ in our body, the placenta evolves throughout pregnancy. In other words, the placenta has a biological process: it is born, grows and dies.
Since it is an organ that belongs to the baby, such as pregnancy, the lifespan of the placenta is 40/41 weeks. At the beginning, its changes are much more evident as it begins to perform all its functions from the fourth month of pregnancy.
Although it continues to evolve, the placenta suffers from very slight changes until the last month of gestation. As your due date approaches, it begins to age and significantly diminish your ability to provide nutrients to your baby.
In fact, if pregnancy is delayed beyond 41 weeks there is a real risk that it will cease to fulfill its function, when this occurs it is called an aged placenta.
As you can see, the placenta is a wonderful organ that is essential for pregnancy to develop and for the baby to get all the nutrients and protective environment it needs to grow healthily. Thanks to all the functions of the placenta, it is considered one of the greatest expressions of human life.
It’s an almost perfect organ!