If you are pregnant, you might be wondering what causes the placenta and what factors can affect the placenta. Find out about this important fetal organ.
What does the placenta do?
The placenta is an organ that develops in your uterus during pregnancy. This structure provides your growing baby with oxygen and nutrients and removes waste products from your baby's blood. The placenta sticks to the wall of your uterus and your baby's umbilical cord is formed. In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches to the top or side of the uterus.
What affects the health of the placenta?
Several factors can affect the health of the placenta during pregnancy, some of them are mutable and others are not. For example:
- Mother's age. Certain placental problems are more common in older women, especially after the age of 40 years.
- Premature rupture of membranes. During pregnancy, your baby is surrounded and padded by a fluid-filled membrane called the amniotic sac. If the bag leaks or breaks before labor, the risk of certain placental problems increases.
- hypertension. High blood pressure can affect your placenta.
- Double or other multiple pregnancy. If you are pregnant with more than one baby, you may be at increased risk for certain placental problems.
- bleeding disorders. Any condition that either affects the coagulation ability of your blood or increases its chance of coagulation increases the risk of certain placental problems.
- Earlier uterine operations. If you have previously had surgery on your uterus, eg.
- Earlier placenta problems. If you have had a placenta problem during your previous pregnancy, you may be at increased risk of reliving it.
- drug abuse. Certain placental problems are more common in women who smoke or take illegal drugs such as cocaine during pregnancy.
- abdominal trauma. Abdominal trauma – such as a fall or other blow on the abdomen – increases the risk of certain placental problems.  What are the most common placental problems?
The most frequent placental problems during pregnancy are placenta ablation, placenta previa and placenta accreta. These conditions can potentially cause severe vaginal bleeding. After delivery, placental retention can be of concern.
- placental abruption (abruptio placentae). If the placenta separates completely or partially from the uterine wall before delivery, it is called placental ablation. A placental interruption can lead to varying degrees of bleeding and pain or cramps. It could also deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. In some cases, early delivery is required.
- Placenta previa. This condition occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix, the exit to the uterus. The placenta previa occurs more often at the beginning of the pregnancy and can regress with increasing uterus. The placenta previa may cause severe vaginal bleeding before or during delivery. Caesarean section is usually required if the placenta previa is present at the time of delivery.
- Placenta accreta. This condition occurs when the blood vessels of the placenta grow too deep into the uterine wall. Placenta accreta may cause vaginal bleeding in the third trimester of pregnancy and severe blood loss after delivery. Treatment may require Caesarean delivery followed by surgical removal of the uterus (abdominal hysterectomy). More aggressive forms of this problem can also occur if the placenta enters the uterine musculature (placenta increta) or if the placenta grows through the uterine wall (placenta percreta).
- Obtained placenta. If the placenta is absent Not delivered within 30 to 60 minutes after birth, it is preserved as a placenta. Retained placenta may occur because the placenta is trapped behind a partially closed cervix or because the placenta is still adhering to the uterine wall – either loose (adherent placenta) or deep (placenta accreta). Left untreated, a retained placenta can cause severe infection or life-threatening blood loss in the mother.
What are signs or symptoms of placental problems?
Ask your doctor during pregnancy if you:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Severe back pain
- Rapid uterine contractions
- Fall, car accident or other trauma to your abdomen
What can I do to reduce the risk of placental problems?
] Most placental problems can not be prevented directly. However, you can take steps to promote a healthy pregnancy. For example:
- Visit your doctor regularly during your pregnancy.
- Work with your doctor to treat health problems such as high blood pressure.
- Do not smoke and do not take illegal drugs.
- Talk to your doctor before choosing an elective caesarean section.
If you have had a placental problem in the past and are planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to reduce the risk of getting another illness. Tell your doctor if you have had surgery on your uterus in the past. Expect your doctor to carefully monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy.
How is the placenta released?
If you deliver your baby vaginally, you also release the placenta vaginally – in the so-called third stage of labor. After you have been born, you still have slight contractions. Your doctor may massage your lower abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract and remove the placenta. You may be asked to squeeze once more to deliver the placenta, which usually emits a small burst of blood. The placenta is usually delivered in about five minutes. In some cases, it can take up to 30 minutes. If you have a caesarian section, your doctor removes the placenta from your uterus during the procedure.
Your doctor examines the placenta for integrity. All remaining fragments must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If you are interested, ask for the placenta. In some cultures, families bury the placenta in a specific location, for example in their backyards. Some women cook and eat the placenta, a practice known as human placentophagy.
If you have questions about placental or placental problems during pregnancy, consult your doctor. He or she can help you better understand the placenta's role.
Release date: 2012-03-28