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What does it look like? AND what jobs does it have?

The placenta is your baby’s best friend and their lifeline. In the early days of pregnancy, as the fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall, it grows quickly into a blastocyst. Around this time, some cells will separate and begin to form the placenta.

What does a placenta look like? This incredible organ is temporary; growing and existing to provide nutrients, oxygen, and waste disposal for the baby. It is a genetic match to the baby and supports their growth by burying into the uterine wall and connecting into the parent’s blood vessels. In order to accommodate this demand, the pregnant person’s arteries will dilate and, by the end of pregnancy, they typically have 50% more blood volume.

A full-term placenta is about the size of a dinner plate, weighing about a pound. The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta, and a typical umbilical cord has one vein that carries nutrient and oxygen-rich blood from the placenta to the baby. The two umbilical arteries move the deoxygenated blood back to the parent.

The placenta is considered one of the most essential organs to human existence, and yet there is so little known about it. Some of the latest research into understanding the placenta is fascinating! See the links at the bottom if you want to know more!

Delivery of the Placenta

After your baby arrives, the placenta has completed its mission. The delivery of the placenta is sometimes called the third stage of labor, the afterbirth, or the placental stage. Typically, the placenta will release off the uterine wall within five to thirty minutes after the baby is born. The birthing person then pushes a few times to deliver the placenta.

As noted above, the placenta is about the size of a dinner plate. When it detaches from the uterus, the blood vessels it was once attached to need to heal. This is the source of bleeding after birth. It is also one of the reasons a birthing person needs time to rest and heal after birth. Your provider will carefully look over the placenta to ensure that it was delivered intact.

Once the placenta is delivered, you are officially no longer pregnant! If you’re able to, many providers will give you a tour of the baby’s placenta and amniotic sac. It’s pretty incredible to see how your baby was sustained during their time in the womb.

For some people, the placenta holds special significance. Some people encapsulate their placenta in order to ingest it, other people bury the placenta in a special place, but most people are happy to say so long to it at the hospital (or home). Did you do anything special to memorialize your baby’s placenta?

-LeAnne Dunham, owner and founder of Adventure Awaits Birth Services, is a certified doula based on the beautiful coast of Downeast Maine. She attends births in Hancock and Washington counties. Her work as a doula centers on the ideas of nurturing, advocacy, and empowerment, things all birthing families deserve!

When not working with birthing families, LeAnne is busy raising her own three boys. They’re a busy bunch that are always on the hunt for adventure!

LeAnne Dunham, Adventure Awaits Birth Services

Find her on Instagram and Facebook @adventureawaitsbirthservices!

The placenta is an amazing organ produced during pregnancy to nourish, provide oxygen to and eliminate waste for the baby while in the uterus. Even after birth, the placenta is full of hormones, vitamins, and minerals.

Here’s a shortlist:

-Hormones: oxytocin (the mothering/love hormone, essential for bonding),

prolactin (the essential one for establishing a good milk supply)


-Iron and other trace elements

-Thyroid hormones

-Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor Stimulating Hormone

-B Vitamins

Throughout time, and as can be seen across other mammal species, mothers have consumed their placentas after the birth of their baby. Can you see why? The best part is that these vitamins and hormones were created and stored in your own body, meaning they are more bioavailable, or highly and efficiently assimilated into your own body again postpartum. Here are some of the benefits of consuming your placenta:

– Bringing your hormones back into balance postpartum

– Avoid the “baby blues” or lessen the intensity

– Avoid anemia

– Increased energy and quicker recovery

– Increased levels of iron, B12, and other hormones

Placenta encapsulation is one option for the preparation of your placenta so that you can consume it. The method that I use follows the protocols used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, an ancient system of medicine that uses placenta to treat fatigue and low milk supply (sound good?). In Chinese medicine, the womb is viewed as “cold” after the birth of the baby and the loss of blood and placenta. For this reason, I steam the placenta gently with ginger and myrrh (two warming herbs plus steam) to bring a warming and healing quality to the placenta. Then I dehydrate the placenta, grind it, and put the powder into capsules. Placenta capsules make it possible for you to consume your placenta easily (no odor, no taste) and over a period of several weeks or more. Every birth and placenta is unique. I am honored to be part of your postpartum recovery by preparing your placenta in this nourishing way.

Courtney Byers

Doula and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist



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