Though the placenta plays an extremely important role in human development, it isn’t talked about all that much. The placenta is an organ that develops within the uterus during pregnancy. It’s delivered vaginally or through the C-section incision following child birth.
A healthy placenta is one of the most important components of developing a healthy baby because it plays a few key roles. One is that it brings oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby through the umbilical cord. Another is that it takes away waste away from the baby’s blood. Third, the placenta plays a role in providing immune protection to developing babies.
Factors That Affect Placenta Health
The health of your placenta can be affected by numerous factors such as blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, maternal age, abdomen trauma, substance misuse, and a history of uterine surgery. Women with placenta problems may experience signs and symptoms like abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions, and back pain.
Some of the most common placenta-related medical conditions include:
- Placental abruption: The placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery and can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. This condition may also cause heavy bleeding in the mother.
- Placenta previa: The placenta sits very low in the uterus and partially or fully covers the cervix. This condition is common in the earlier parts of pregnancy and can involve very heavy bleeding.
- Placenta accreta: Parts of the placenta grow deeply into the uterine wall, often leading the placenta to remain attached to the uterine wall after childbirth.
There are a few things you can do to minimize your risk of placental problems. One of the most important things you can do is to see your ObGyn provider regularly. Your provider will help you maintain your overall health and to manage any existing conditions that may potentially affect the health of your placenta.
The placenta is the least studied of all human organs, but in recent years there’s been new research, including:
- Researchers at the NICHD have been working on the the Human Placenta Project. This project aims to understand more about the role that the placenta plays in the health of mothers and children. Additionally, they are studying the development of disease throughout each stage of pregnancy.
- Scientists have been developing miniature, lab-grown placentas to learn more about conditions like stillbirth, pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and miscarriage. These lab-grown placentas are also being used in other interesting and important ways. In the future, they may be even be used to check the safety of drugs taken during pregnancy and to see how hormones may indicate if a placenta isn’t functioning properly and is at risk for complications.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.