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I never saw my first placenta. My daughter was born in a hospital after a birth center transfer and it was the least of everyone's worries once she was born. Looking back, I wish I would have seen it—after all, it was her life giving organ for 40 weeks. In my opinion, that placenta deserved a little praise before finding its way to the waste bin!
For my second child I made specific plans for my placenta. And now, for my third, I'm following suit. Especially since during this pregnancy I have learned even more about how truly awesome placentas are!
So much of pregnancy is focused on the baby—and rightly so—but the counterpart, the placenta, has earned a valuable place in my book too. Here are a few basics about placenta and four extra interesting things you might not know ...
First off, by definition from the Myles Textbook For Midwives, "The placenta is a metabolic and incomplete endocrine organ as well as the means through which the fetus obtains its needs: it not only selects and transports from the mother's blood the substances necessary for fetal life and growth; it also changes some of these so that the fetus can utilize them. Placenta and fetus are a functioning unit. The fetus is dependent on the placenta for the quality of life in utero."
Placentas Act As Barriers
Pretty much, placentas allow the good stuff in (nutrients, oxygen, etc.) and keeps the bad stuff out. It blocks bacteria and viruses from getting to your baby while making sure that baby's cells don't migrate to you and set off internal alarms that something foreign —a baby—is inside your body.
If you've got leaky breasts upon delivery, some thanks goes to your placenta!
Placentas Produce Hormones
While busy keeping baby fed and safe, your placenta is also hard at work creating hormones. One such hormone, human placental lactogen, helps to trigger milk production once your baby is born. If you've got leaky breasts upon delivery, some thanks goes to your placenta!
Placentas Aren't Light
Most moms gain an average of 30 pounds during the course of their pregnancy. I tend to gain even more—36 with my first, 31 with my second and at 32 weeks pregnant, I'm plus 23 pounds with Baby #3. Good news is, I can assign about 1.5 pounds of that to my hard working placenta!
Placentas Are Birthed Too
Babies are the highlight of birth, the moment all moms and dads wait for throughout pregnancy! But Mom's birth work isn't done until the third stage of childbirth is complete—the birth of the placenta. More and more research is being done about the importance of this stage and it is now recommended that the umbilical cord not be pulled, and rather, contractions should be induced through massage and an oxytocin shot to naturally allow the placenta to separate from the uterine wall and be birthed. Delayed cord clamping is also receiving a fair amount of research so be sure to talk to your care provider about their personal practice and how that aligns with your preferences.
Are you as amazed by the placenta as I am? Of course, I love my baby the most and think they're the best part of pregnancy, but boy, am I thankful for a competent placenta. Today, let's give our placentas a high five for their diligent work in keeping our little ones safe in their earliest days—they deserve it!