As an expectant mum, your mind is constantly marvelling about the wonders of pregnancy and childbirth. However, something that is considered one of the most important human organs during pregnancy is arguably one of the least understood. That’s right – it’s the placenta.
If you are currently pregnant, already have children or are just curious about the human body, you may be wondering what exactly the placenta is. What does it do? How does it work? What happens to it once we give birth?
I’ve teamed up with Cells4Life, the UK’s leading cord blood bank, to answer all of your placenta questions.
What is the placenta and what does it do?
Essentially, the placenta is a large organ that develops during pregnancy which provides the lifeline between a mother and her baby. Connected by the umbilical cord, the placenta passes essential nutrients and oxygen from mother to baby, enabling growth and development over the course of nine months. The placenta also filters out any waste products or substances to prevent the baby contracting any harmful infections.
In recent years, doctors and researchers have also discovered that the placenta is capable of even more functions that are fundamental for both you and baby. This unique organ plays a crucial role in hormone production during pregnancy. Hormones such as oestrogen, lactogen and progesterone are vital for a healthy pregnancy and the placenta is key in their production.
When does the placenta form?
The placenta begins to form in the early weeks of pregnancy, when the fertilised egg attaches itself to a tiny yolk sack in the uterus. This happens at just 10 weeks of pregnancy! This tiny sack fulfils the placenta’s job of providing nutrients to baby until the placenta is fully formed a few weeks later.
By week 18-20 of pregnancy, the placenta is fully developed and takes over the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the fertilised egg, ensuring that baby is fully nourished.
Over time, the placenta increases production of those all-important pregnancy hormones that we previously discussed. Good news – this is the time when your morning sickness will subside, granting you a much-needed energy boost. Halleluiah!
The placenta continues to grow and nourish your baby throughout pregnancy, right up until your baby is welcomed into the world.
What happens to the placenta once I have given birth?
Once baby is delivered, your placenta will follow shortly after in what is referred to as the third stage of labour. After birth, you will have some time to engage in some skin-to-skin contact with your baby before slightly weaker contractions will start again and you will deliver the placenta.
On average, a natural third stage of labour will take about 10 minutes. However, for some women, it can take a bit longer than that.
After the placenta has been delivered, some parents like to use the placenta for placenta encapsulation or for placentogaphy. For those mums who can’t quite stomach the thought of eating their own placenta, it is often thrown away as medical waste following birth.
But what other options are available?
There are two key parts which form the placenta: the outer layer (the chorion) and the inner layer (the amnion). The chorion consists of small tree-like structures that provide the greatest level of contact with your maternal blood during pregnancy. Whereas the amnion, also known as the amniotic membrane, serves as a protective layer of the placenta which keeps baby safe throughout pregnancy.
What some people don’t know is that both of these parts are rich in powerful regenerative properties which are currently being used in a range of therapies to push the boundaries of conventional medicine.
Since the early twentieth century, the placenta has been used to treat wounds and promote healing for conditions such as diabetic ulcers and eye conditions. Now, Placental Cells are being used in clinical trials for conditions such as arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and more.
Placenta banking gives new parents the opportunity to discover the true power of the placenta and store both Amnion and Placental Cells which can continue to protect your baby’s long-term health long after birth.
Cells4Life are the only stem cell bank in the UK to offer placenta banking which provides parents with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Parents who choose to store their baby’s stem cells with Cells4Life can also choose to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood and cord tissue stem cells, which can already treat life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.
By choosing placenta banking alongside cord blood and cord tissue, you maximise the therapeutic possibilities of your baby’s samples throughout their entire lifetime.
Bin it or bank it?
Ultimately, the choice is entirely up to you and it is important that you decide what is best for you and your baby.
If you decide to store your placenta, Cells4Life is the only stem cell bank in the UK to offer placenta storage. We give you the choice to store your placental cells, amnion or both, either by themselves or alongside cord blood and tissue banking.
To find out more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, head over to cells4life.com.