Placenta: How it works, what's normal
Placenta: How it works, what's normal
If you're pregnant, you might wonder what the placenta does and what factors can affect the placenta. Get the facts about this important fetal organ.
What does the placenta do?
The placenta is a structure that develops in your uterus during pregnancy. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and removes waste products from your baby's blood. It attaches to the wall of your uterus, and your baby's umbilical cord arises from it. In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches at the top or side of the uterus.
What affects placental health?
Various factors can affect the health of the placenta during pregnancy, some modifiable and some not. For example:
What are the most common placental problems?
During pregnancy, the most common placental problems include placental abruption, placenta previa and placenta accreta. Each of these conditions can cause potentially heavy vaginal bleeding. After delivery, retained placenta is sometimes a concern.
The placenta is a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before birth. Placental abruption ...
The placenta is a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. In most pregnancies, the placenta is located at the top or side of the uterus. In placenta previa, the placenta is located ...
What are signs or symptoms of placental problems?
Consult your health care provider during pregnancy if you notice:
What can I do to reduce my risk of placental problems?
Most placental problems can't be directly prevented. However, you can take steps to promote a healthy pregnancy. For example:
If you've had a placental problem during a previous pregnancy and are planning another pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about ways to reduce the risk of experiencing the condition again. Expect your health care provider to carefully monitor your condition throughout the pregnancy.
How is the placenta delivered?
If you deliver your baby vaginally, you'll also deliver the placenta vaginally — during what's known as the third stage of labor. After you give birth, you'll continue to have mild contractions. Your health care provider might massage your lower abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract and expel the placenta. You might be asked to push one more time to deliver the placenta, which usually comes out with a small gush of blood. The placenta is typically delivered in about five minutes. In some cases, it might take up to 30 minutes. If you have a C-section, your health care provider will remove the placenta from your uterus during the procedure.
Your health care provider will examine the placenta to make sure it's intact. Any remaining fragments must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If you're interested, ask to see the placenta. In some cultures, families bury the placenta in a special place, such as their backyards. Some women also cook and eat the placenta, a practice known as human placentophagy.
If you have questions about the placenta or placental problems during pregnancy, talk to your health care provider. He or she can help you better understand the placenta's role.
Last Updated: 2012-03-28
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