What does a Placenta Look like?
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!