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About a week after conception, as the fertilized egg, or blastocyst, nestles into your uterine wall, it begins forming the placenta, often called the “tree of life.” The placenta is a vital link between you and the burgeoning fetus, providing your growing baby with nourishment and oxygen, while disposing of waste and protecting against dangerous toxins.

By the eighth week of your pregnancy, the placenta begins producing estrogen and progesterone, which help maintain and regulate your pregnancy; and baby becomes completely dependant on the placenta for food and oxygen by the 12th week. The placenta grows with your baby, reaching a diameter of 10 inches and a thickness of 1 inch by the time you are full-term (40 weeks).

Your placenta provides your baby:

  • with oxygenated blood.

  • with nutrients, vitamins, and inorganic salts from your blood.

  • with waste disposal. Carbon dioxide and waste is transferred to your blood and filtered through your kidneys.

  • protection from many illnesses and substances in your body that might harm your baby.

  • with hormones that prepare your baby's organs for life on the outside.

Although your blood carries nutrients to your baby and transports wastes away, your blood doesn’t actually mix with your baby’s. The placenta acts as a blood filter, with your blood and your baby’s separated by a thin membrane that allows oxygen, nutrients, and waste to cross, but keeps the blood from ever mixing. This explains how you may have a different blood type than your baby without causing any problems.

As soon as you have delivered your baby, your placenta begins separating from your uterine wall, causing light contractions. Delivering the placenta is the third stage of labor, and usually happens within one hour of your baby’s birth. Although you may feel like you don’t have the energy to push after delivering your baby, your placenta is relatively easy to deliver since it is soft and pliable. Once your placenta is out your doctor will inspect it for problems and you can relax and get to know your new baby.

For more information:

Placenta Previa


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