The placenta - the wondrous organ that forms during pregnancy and nourishes baby until birth. Do you know what it is, what it looks like, and what you can do with it after the baby is born?
The placenta is an amazing wondrous organ that belongs to the baby, it plays a crucial role during pregnancy by sustaining baby until birth, but is not needed by the baby postpartum. It is essentially baby's life support system. It develops in the womb throughout pregnancy and attaches to the wall of the uterus; it provides nutrients, oxygen, and antibodies to protect against infection, and removes waste and carbon dioxide. The placenta keeps baby's and mother's blood supply separate, so the mother does not create antibodies against baby and reject a foreign body with a different genetic makeup - as is the risk with organ transplants. The placenta also creates hormones needed throughout pregnancy. It attaches to the baby via the umbilical cord.
During birth 1/3 of baby's blood supply backs up into the placenta and should be allowed to return to the baby after birth for baby's optimal transition and survival to life outside the womb. This can simply be done by avoiding immediate cord clamping and ideally let the birth process without disturbance when all is going well. It is ideal to wait until the cord stops pulsing to clamp it, although many out-of-hospital midwives do not clamp the cord until the placenta is birthed. A powerful Ted Talk by renowned pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene here speaks on the risks of immediate cord clamping and the benefits of waiting at least 90 seconds to clamp it.
Read an article about a Cochrane Review on cord clamping here.
The baby does not need the placenta after the cord has stopped pulsing. But what should you do with it? Throw it away? Or do you want to ingest it for possible health benefits? Maybe you want to honor it in a special burial ceremony. At the very least, you should ask your care provider to show it to you and explain what you are seeing, so you can marvel at the organ that grew inside you to give your baby life!
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