A placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. Its function is to provide oxygen, blood supply and essential nutrients whilst removing waste materials from the baby’s bloodstream. The placenta is typically found at the top side of the uterus, lining the womb, projecting and connecting the baby’s umbilical cord .The umbilical cord thus carries the provided nutrients and blood supply to the baby. The placenta’s importance cannot be overstated as it produces growth hormones for the baby’s development as well as offering protection from infection. The placenta passes antibodies from the woman to the baby, providing an immunity that carries the baby through the first three months, after birth. A placenta is typically delivered about 5 to 15 minutes after the birth of your baby and its fragments (if any) immediately removed to prevent bleeding or infection
Because the placenta is a very critical organ in pregnancy, it is best to note the most common placental problems that may put you or your baby in harm’s way:
- Placental abruption – Here the placenta partly or completely thins awayfrom the inner wall of the uterus before the baby is delivered. This causes oxygen deprivation in the baby and an early birth might be necessary to save the baby. The placental abruption causes cramping, vaginal bleeding and pain.
- Placenta accreta- In this case, the placenta’s blood vessel is deeply attached to the uterine wall. This usually occurs in the third trimester and may cause severe bleeding during the pregnancy or after. C-section deliveries are always recommended in cases of placenta accreta.
- Placenta previa-This happens when the cervix is partially or completely covered by the placenta. This is very common in early pregnancy and may correct itself as more growth occurs. This condition may also cause severe vaginal bleeding and would usually result in a C-section delivery.
- Anterior placenta- In this situation, the placenta develops and grows on the anterior of the uterus, with the baby lying behind it. This is the reason early fetal kicks are not felt by the mother because the placenta cushions the effect. In some cases, the placenta could partially or completely block off the cervix during delivery.
- Enlarged placenta- Here, the placenta is bigger, thicker or weighs more than normal. This causes the obstruction of the birth pathway and usually happens when the woman’s diet is low on protein. A lot of times, an enlarged placenta does not cause harm to the baby as long as the develops at a steady pace.
In order to ensure the development and optimal growth of the placenta, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle as the placenta only passes antibodies that you already have to your baby. It is best to abstain from smoking or the use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, during pregnancy.
Other factors that may lead to placental problems are:
- Maternal age
- Rupture of the membranes
- Vagina bleeding
- High blood pressure
- Twin or multiple pregnancy
- Intense abdominal or back pain
- Previous uterine surgery.
- Previous placental problems.
- Abdominal trauma.
A lot of placental problems are preventable, so it is best to frequently see a doctor especially for women who have had placental problems in a previous pregnancy.