The placenta (also known as afterbirth) is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, provide thermo-regulation to the fetus, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply, fight against internal infection and produce hormones to support pregnancy.

The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to growing babies and removes waste products from the baby’s blood. The placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus, and the baby’s umbilical cord develops from the placenta. The umbilical cord is what connects the mother and the baby.

The placenta averages 22 cm (9 inch) in length and 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1 inch) in thickness, with the center being the thickest, and the edges being the thinnest. It typically weighs approximately 500 grams (just over 1 lb). It has a dark reddish-blue or crimson color. It connects to the fetus by an umbilical cord of approximately 55–60 cm (22–24 inch) in length, which contains two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein.

The placenta begins to develop upon implantation of the blastocyst into the maternal endometrium. The outer layer of the blastocyst becomes the trophoblast, which forms the outer layer of the placenta. This outer layer is divided into two further layers: the underlying cytotrophoblast layer and the overlying syncytiotrophoblast layer. The syncytiotrophoblast is a multinucleated continuous cell layer that covers the surface of the placenta. It forms as a result of differentiation and fusion of the underlying cytotrophoblast cells, a process that continues throughout placental development. The syncytiotrophoblast (otherwise known as syncytium), thereby contributes to the barrier function of the placenta.

The placenta grows throughout pregnancy. Development of the maternal blood supply to the placenta is complete by the end of the first trimester of pregnancy (approximately 12–13 weeks).

Placental expulsion begins as a physiological separation from the wall of the uterus. The period from just after the child is born until just after the placenta is expelled is called the “third stage of labor”. The placenta is usually expelled within 15–30 minutes of birth.

 

Placenta. (2016, September 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:16, September 13, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Placenta&oldid=739273754