I always love to get a photo of the placenta at a birth (and try to convince everyone in the family to take a look at it in real life, ha!). It is an incredibly fascinating organ! It supplies nutrients, fluids and oxygen to a baby for an entire pregnancy. The placenta connects the developing fetus (baby) to the wall of the mother’s uterus via the umbilical cord.
Check out these amazing facts about the placenta! (sources linked throughout and below)
**This blog post has lots of placenta photos with blood, and may make some viewers squeamish!
1. The placenta is formed from the same group of cells that the fetus is formed from
“Between 5 and 8 days after fertilization, the blastocyst attaches to the lining of the uterus, usually near the top. This process, called implantation, is completed by day 9 or 10.
The wall of the blastocyst is one cell thick except in one area, where it is three to four cells thick. The inner cells in the thickened area develop into the embryo, and the outer cells burrow into the wall of the uterus and develop into the placenta.” (source)
The placenta is formed by cells that originate from the fetus and is therefore the first of the fetal organs to develop.
2. The placenta is a disposable organ
While there are several vestigial organs, the placenta is the only one that is actually disposable, and it actually disposes of ITSELF once your body is done with it!
3. A placenta is the size of a small dinner plate
The human placenta is about 9” across on average at birth and can weigh up to 2 lbs. This means, when the placenta detaches from a mother’s uterine wall, a wound the size of a small dinner plate is left behind! This is why it is SO important for mothers to take time to heal, even after a straightforward, “easy” vaginal birth.
I always suggest that my clients stay in bed and just snuggle their babies skin-to-skin for at least the first week after baby is born if possible! This requires a lot of support from other family/friends, especially if there are older children in the home, but it is a very important time for bonding and healing for both mom and babe, so try to make it happen!
4. The placenta produces several hormones that help maintain the pregnancy
Among many others, the placenta produces human chorionic gonadotropin, which prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs and stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone continuously. The progesterone provides a happy environment for the fetus and the placenta to grow.
5. The blood of both mother and baby pass through the placenta, but never mix
“It keeps your unborn baby's blood supply separate from your own blood supply, as well as providing a link between the two. The link allows the placenta to carry out functions that your unborn baby can't perform for itself.” (source)
6. The placenta provides immunity to the baby after birth
During a pregnancy, the mother transfers antibodies to the fetus through the placenta. The antibodies passed on can provides 3-6 months of immunity for the baby!
7. The placenta acts as lungs for the baby
When the mother breathes, oxygen and carbon dioxide flow through the blood into the placenta. The blood then flows through the umbilical cord to the baby’s body. At birth, the baby’s lungs aren’t filled with air, they’re filled with fluid! (source)
8. Some people eat their placenta
Most mammals eat their own placenta after birth. It’s a historical practice, but today moms often add a chunk of placenta raw into a smoothie, fry it up, or dehydrate and encapsulate the placenta to take during the postpartum period (this is the most popular method of consumption). It is says to increase energy, decrease postpartum depression, enhance milk supply, bring hormones back into balance, among many other benefits. Though many of the benefits aren’t scientifically confirmed, many women swear by the practice!
Alyssa Kellert is newborn, birth, documentary family photographer + film maker as well as a birth doula, and is located in Greater Vancouver, BC Canada. Head over to her Facebook page to see more of her most recent work at facebook.com/alyssakellert, or follow her on Instagram @alyssakellertphoto. You are welcome to email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact page on this site for more information!