The placenta is the lifeline between a mother and baby and is considered ‚Äúthe least understood human organ but arguably one of the most important.‚ÄĚ
The placenta starts to develop shortly after the egg is fertilized, and it attaches itself to the uterine wall. It delivers nutrients to the baby during pregnancy and removes unnecessary waste, like carbon dioxide.
But what else does the placenta do? Here are 11 facts about after-birth that you might not have known.
1. The placenta can provide immunity to the baby long after birth.
During pregnancy, the placenta transfers antibodies from the mother to the fetus that provide immune protection. These antibodies can provide three to six months of immunity for the baby after being born.
2. It acts as lungs for the baby.
When you breathe, your body provides oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, the mother does the same thing for the fetus through the placenta. The oxygen passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to be delivered into the baby‚Äôs bloodstream. The placenta also acts as the baby‚Äôs kidneys by filtering out waste.
3. Some women ingest their placenta.
Most mammals, other than humans, eat their own placenta. And many women have started ingesting them, as well. Some women choose to eat the placenta raw, others cook it and some even ingest it via capsules. The practice is supposed to help with postpartum depression, pain relief and other complications, but there is no known medical evidence to support this.
4. The placenta has spiritual significance in some cultures.
In different parts of the world, the placenta is seen as more than just a disposable organ. In Nepal, the placenta is considered a friend to the baby, in Malaysia it‚Äôs an elder sibling, a twin in Nigeria, and part of the baby itself in Hawaii.
5. Identical twins may or may not share a placenta.
When giving birth to identical twins, the number of placentas is determined by when the fertilized egg splits. If the egg splits before the placenta develops, each baby will have its own placenta. If the egg splits after it develops, both babies will be sustained by one placenta. With fraternal twins, there will always be two placentas.
6. Scientists study the placenta to better understand cancer.
Pregnancy progresses in a similar way to a tumour, so scientists are able to learn more about cancer by studying the placenta. Unlike an organ transplant, the placenta is able to develop in the body without being attacked by the immune system. By studying the placenta, researchers can learn more about how tumours have the ability to grow without intervention from the immune system.
TEACH THEM WELL // THIS, I love! I love that to this gorgeous 5 year old girl, this is normal, birth is normal and placentas are NORMAL! #birthwithconfidence #birthisbeautiful #homebirth #bumpbirthandbeyond Cassie Emmett | Award Winning Birth Photographer | Hamilton NZ @capturinglifebirthphotography | www.capturinglife.co.nz
7. Both the mother and baby‚Äôs blood passes through the placenta, but they don‚Äôt mix.
The mother and baby exchange oxygen and nutrients through the placenta, but if their blood was to intermingle it could cause problems with the pregnancy. The mother‚Äôs immune system would create antibodies to get rid of the baby‚Äôs blood and it could destroy the pregnancy. Instead, the blood passes through separate arteries. Incredibly, about 20 per cent of the mother‚Äôs blood flows through the placenta every single minute.
8. Some women have chosen to leave the placenta attached to the baby after delivery.
‚ÄúLotus birth‚ÄĚ is the practice of keeping a newborn baby attached to the placenta until the umbilical cord naturally falls off. One mother explained that leaving the umbilical cord intact could allow for additional nutrient exchange between the placenta and the baby because the placenta can survive for a few minutes after birth. She also said that the practice has ‚Äúspiritual benefits.‚ÄĚ
Kakang kawah, adhi ari-ari. Kelahiran bayi selalu ditandai dengan mengalirnya air (kawah) ketuban, lalu menyusullah si plasenta (ari-ari) tak lama kemudian. Itu sebabnya, dalam falsafah Jawa, ketuban dianggap sebagai "kakak" dan plasenta dianggap sebagai "adik". Diperlakukan dengan hormat, lebih dari sekadar onggokan daging. Kakang kawah, adhi ari-ari. Terima kasih telah bekerjasama dengan baik dan menjaga bayi. Sejak ia resmi dikirim ke rahim Bunda. Hingga kini ia menghirup udara, dan siap untuk berpisah. Terima kasih telah mengajariku sekali lagi tentang makna cinta: lakukan saja. Memberi saja. Ikhlas. Lepas. Kembali lagi padaNya ‚ô°‚ô°‚ô° #notethisday #doulalife #douladiary #lotusbirth #doulajakarta #doulaindonesia
However, medical professionals claim that there are no benefits, and it could actually be dangerous. The placenta becomes dead tissue shortly after birth and is prone to infection.
9. Placenta previa can cause delivery issues.
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta blocks the opening to the mother‚Äôs cervix and can cause bleeding during pregnancy or delivery. Women who have delivered via C-section, are carrying more than one fetus, or who are age 35 or older are at higher risk of placenta previa. Women who have this often require a C-section to ensure a safe delivery.
10. Babies can send cells through the placenta that protect and heal the mother‚Äôs organs.
Fetal cells can transfer to the mother during pregnancy, and they seem to target sites of injury. These cells have been found in the skin, liver, kidney and bone marrow in healthy women as well as women with autoimmune diseases. They have also been found in women with diseases like hepatitis C and cervical cancer. There is evidence that the presence of these cells is increased in diseased tissues.
11. The placenta is made by both Mom and Dad.
Although the placenta develops inside the mother, the father actually helps to create the organ. When the sperm fertilizes the egg, a blastocyst is formed. This then becomes the placenta and the baby.
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After giving birth to her son Xander in 2011, January Jones ate her placenta by turning it into pills. This is known as placenta encapsulation, where the placenta is dehydrated and eaten in the form of a vitamin capsule. According to the 37-year-old mom, eating the placenta pills helped her beat post-partum depression.
After giving birth to her third child in December 2014, Kourtney Kardashian posted a photo to Instagram of her placenta pills saying: ‚ÄúYummy...PLACENTA pills! No joke...I will be sad when my placenta pills run out. They are life changing! #benefits #lookitup.‚ÄĚ
Before giving birth in 2013, Holly Madison revealed she would eat her placenta after delivering her daughter. ‚ÄúThis might sound gross, but I'm totally planning on having my placenta turned into pills I can take after giving birth,‚ÄĚ the 35-year-old wrote on her blog. ‚ÄúI heard it helps women recover faster and I want to recover as quickly as I can!‚ÄĚ
Tia and Tamera Mowry shared a truly unique experience together as sisters in the season finale of their reality show in 2013. In the episode, Tia ate her sister‚Äôs placenta by blending it and mixing it with brandy.
The "Clueless" star gave birth to her son Bear Blue in 2011, but only recently revealed that she ate her own placenta following his birth. While promoting her parenting book ‚ÄúThe Kind Mama‚ÄĚ last year, Alicia explained, ‚ÄúSomeone gifted me my placenta in the form of a pill. They encapsulate it. I thought that's harmless. I'll try it. And I have to tell you that I really loved it.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI've got to the point that my husband said ‚ÄėDid you have your happy pills today?‚Äô‚ÄĚ she continued. ‚ÄúAnd I was really sad when they were gone. It really helped me.‚ÄĚ
While it‚Äôs unknown if Kim Kardashian really went through with eating her placenta after baby North was born in 2013, she certainly made it clear that she was interested in trying it. On an episode of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," Kim stated: ‚ÄúI definitely want to eat it. There's cook books of different ways you have to cook it.‚ÄĚ Interestingly, only her older sister Kourtney was supportive of her decision. This makes sense considering Kourtney is an advocate of the practice.
Six weeks after giving birth to her first child in November 2014, "Girls" star Gaby Hoffman spoke to People Magazine about how she got her body back in shape. She explained it was all due to eating her placenta, which boosted her energy and her milk supply. ‚ÄúI made smoothies out of it for three weeks,‚ÄĚ the actress said. ‚ÄúI had a home birth, so my midwife and my doula took it and cut it up into 20 pieces and froze it, and every day, I put it in a blender with strawberries and blueberries and guava juice and a banana, and I drank that sh*t up.‚ÄĚ
Mayim Bialik admitted on her blog that she has eaten her own placenta. In 2012, the mother-of-two wrote a post entitled, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre Not Gross!‚ÄĚ in defense against the backlash Alicia Silverstone and January Jones were facing for their parenting choices. In the end, Mayim wrote: ‚ÄúI ingested my placenta. I am not a bad person, a crazy person, or a freak and neither is Alicia Silverstone or January Jones.‚ÄĚ