The placenta is a unique organ that grows in your uterus when you’re pregnant. It’s the only transient organ that humans have, and it serves a vital role in your baby’s development.
There’s a lot that medical experts don’t understand about the placenta and how it works, but it’s clear that a healthy placenta is essential for a healthy pregnancy — and it changes as your pregnancy progresses.
A. Michael Coppa, MD, is a leading obstetrician in Cranston, Providence, and Smithfield, Rhode Island. He and our team provide comprehensive prenatal care, and in this blog, we’re taking a closer look at the placenta and what every pregnant woman needs to know about it.
The placenta is your baby’s lifeline
The placenta develops within the first few weeks of pregnancy. It starts as a small cluster of cells, and it grows several inches long by the time you deliver your baby.
It’s often described as a parachute-shaped sac, but the placenta is much more than a safe place for your baby to grow. It serves the function of many different organs, from lungs to kidneys, and it keeps your baby alive while they develop in the womb.
The placenta attaches to the wall of your uterus and connects to your baby’s umbilical cord. It sends oxygen and nutrients to your baby, and it filters their blood to remove waste products.
The placenta also transfers antibodies from your immune system to your baby. The immunity they get in the womb can protect them from getting sick for several months after they’re born.
The placenta could resolve your first trimester symptoms
For many women, early pregnancy brings a range of unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms are the result of increased hormone production, and often include morning sickness, nausea, fatigue, tender breasts, and more.
During the first trimester, the corpus luteum that released the egg from your ovaries makes and regulates pregnancy hormones. But around week 12, hormone production shifts to the placenta.
This shift is one of the reasons that pregnancy symptoms lessen in the second trimester. Once the placenta starts producing pregnancy hormones, symptoms like nausea and fatigue may improve.
Placenta issues can make your pregnancy high-risk
Most women don’t experience placental complications during pregnancy. But certain issues can arise that may make your pregnancy high-risk.
A few possible placenta problems include:
- Placental abruption
- Placenta previa
- Placenta accreta
- Retained placenta
Placenta complications can put the health of you or your baby at risk. Fortunately, regular prenatal care can help you avoid more serious complications.
As an obstetrician specializing in high-risk pregnancy, Dr. Coppa does tests to check on your placenta throughout pregnancy. He identifies its location during your mid-pregnancy ultrasound, and may recommend additional testing based on certain risk factors.
Our team works with you from conception to delivery and beyond to ensure you and your baby enjoy the best possible health. Contact us to request your first appointment to learn more about our prenatal care services.