In comparison to the precious newborn, the placenta is a mere after birth, that is soon discarded. It is, however, a rather remarkable thing, a lifeline for your baby inside the uterus.
Here are a few things you did not know about the placenta:
You began life as a single cell slightly smaller than the full stop at the end of this sentence.
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A series of cell divisions ensued, and now you are made up of trillions of cells. During the very first cell divisions, some cells are destined to form the baby; others the placenta.
It is attached to the wall of the uterus, usually at the top or side. The umbilical cord connects the placenta to your baby. ‘Magenta placenta’ might best describe its appearance as it pulsates with a rich mixture of red and blue blood. Mother and baby’s blood supplies run very close but don’t mix.
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The baby’s capillaries spread out within the placenta like roots of a tree; the mother’s blood flows over the surface at a rate of half a litre every minute, delivering food and oxygen and removing waste. “The placenta serves as the lung, the kidneys, the liver, the endocrine system (it produces hormones) and is essential for immune defence of the baby”.
The placenta is expelled from your body after the birth, usually about 5 to 30 minutes after your baby is born. This is called the third stage of labour. If you have a caesarean section, the doctor will remove the placenta at the same time. It is important that the whole placenta comes out after pregnancy. If any fragments of the placenta stay inside, they will have to be surgically removed to prevent bleeding and infection.
It is important to visit your healthcare provider regularly during pregnancy to check for any problems with your placenta. Tell your doctor if you have had problems with the placenta in a previous pregnancy, or if you have had any surgery to your womb.
Read more about: Baby’s Placenta and its importance
Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take illegal drugs during pregnancy because this increases the likelihood you will have problems with the placenta. Always consult your doctor before you take any medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, natural therapies and supplements, while you are pregnant.
Both the umbilical cord and placenta are potential lifesavers during adult years, as treasure chests of stem cells that can be used to treat many diseases such as leukaemia.
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“The least understood human organ but arguably the most important:" the placenta. So, next time you look at your navel, consider that it was once where your umbilical cord plugged you into the amazing Placenta.
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