The placenta is an organ that is not present from birth, like a heart or a liver or lungs. It is the only organ that our bodies make as reproductive adult women when we are pregnant. There cannot be a pregnancy without it. It maintains the hormones necessary for a pregnancy to continue. It is the vital link ( via the umbilical cord ) between the baby's and the mother's circulatory systems to provide nourishment and oxygen to the fetus and to carry away waste products from the baby's blood, so it can be eliminated from the mother's body.
There is much concern over this vital organ throughout the pregnancy and many factors affect it's health and optimal functioning. Women over age forty sometimes have more placental issues. And women who experience a premature rupture of the amniotic sac. Multiples, high blood pressure, clotting disorders, substance abuse, a history of previous placental problems or previous uterine surgery are all factors that may affect placental well-being. Abdominal trauma can also lead to placental problems, but the trauma must be severe because the pregnancy is provided with a lot of layers of protection.
There are some fairly common problems that can cause heavy vaginal bleeding, even hemorrhage and that is why pregnant women and women in the post partum should contact their provider if they are saturating a pad an hour.
An abruption occurs when the placenta pulls away from the uterus before delivery. Therefore, the baby's means of oxygen, nutrients and waste disposal are compromised. It may necessitate immediate delivery.
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta, which usually attaches to the wall of the uterus,either partially or completely covers the cervix. Sometimes what appears as a previa on early sonogram will resolve as the uterus grows with the pregnancy, taking the placenta along with it, up the wall and away from the opening to the vagina.
Accretia is a rare condition which may require cesarean section and post delivery hysterectomy as well. It happens when the blood vessels of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall.
The placenta is delivered shortly after the baby is born. The miraculous organ is no longer needed and it must be removed to prevent hemorrhage or possible infection. On occasion, placental fragments may be discovered days after birth, when vaginal bleeding remains extremely heavy and a D&C must be performed to eliminate all traces of the now useless organ.
Refer back to a previous blog, please, if you are interested in uses for the placenta after it is delivered.