I get excited about placentas. I can't help it! They are amazing, cool, life giving and an organ. A woman's body grows a child and a placenta in 8-9 months! The placenta is what protects, nourishes, and supplies the baby. While I don't expect most people to get as excited as I do about placentas, I thought I would share some really cool facts to at least get you interested.
-The placenta is also called "tree of life" due to the fact that is literally gives life to the fetus/baby (via blood, nutrients, oxygen, etc) and because of how it looks. If you look at the picture above, the umbilical cord is the trunk of the tree and all the veins are the branches.
-Every minute about 20% of the mother's blood supply flows through the placenta. Every minute!
-The placenta grows 32 miles of capillaries (any of the fine branching blood vessels that form a network between the arterioles and venules).
-Spread out, the tissue formed to exchange oxygen and nutrients would cover 120 to 150 square feet.
-The mother's blood and the baby's blood never mix! Thanks to the placenta.
-Trophoblasts cells (from the outer layer of the embryo) create the placenta and pave the way for the placenta to gain blood supply. They are very invasive and will even "pave" themselves over the pathways of the mother in order to create a pathway for the placenta.
-The placenta plays the role of many organs while supporting the baby/fetus in the uterus, including liver, kidney, endocrine system and the respiratory system.
-The placenta has also been called the "chronicle of intrauterine life" (by scientists) because it tells a story of what has gone on in the life of the fetus/baby during development (especially if something goes wrong).
-The placenta acts as a gland - secreting numerous hormones that are essential for baby's growth, labor, and to establish breastfeeding. Some of the hormones include: estrogen (responsible for increasing blood flow and stimulating uterine growth), progesterone (helps to maintain the uterine lining), relaxin (responsible for causing the mother's joints and muscles to relax and stretch in preparation for labor/birth), and the Human Placental Lactogen (responsible for increasing mother's metabolism).
-The placenta has cells from both the Mom and the Dad (from the sperm).
-The placenta provides some immunity and infection protection for the fetus/baby.
- The placenta does not contain any nerve cells, so it cannot be under the direct control of the brain or spinal cord. The placenta develops and functions without being connected to your brain — how amazing!
-The placenta is the only disposable organ. It comes out when it has done it's job (and what a fine job it does, too!)
Grady, Denise. "The Mysterious Tree of a Newborn's Life: The Push to Understand the Placenta." The New York Times [New York]. 14 July 2014 The New York Times Web. 28 May 2016
Pyanov, Maria. "What is a Placenta? 10 Amazing Placenta Facts" BellyBelly 25 January 2015. Web. 28 May 2016.
Doula Rachel has put together a blog of resources, info-graphics, and articles, with an occasional self-published blog. Enjoy!