The placenta is a flattened, disc shaped structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. It is made partly by the uterus and partly from fetal tissue. The main role of placenta is to provide adequate nutrition, growth and survival of the fetus throughout pregnancy. Here is why it is so important for your baby.
During pregnancy the exchange of gases in the fetus is done by the placenta, consisting of specialized microscopic structures known as villi. Each villus, a network of fetal blood vessels, is connected to the blood vessels of the mother. As the fetus grows inside the mother, the tissue that separates the fetal and maternal blood becomes thinner. The fetus requires oxygen to carry out basic biochemical reactions inside the cells. These reactions lead to the production of carbon dioxide as a waste product that must be removed from the blood of fetus. The placenta plays a vital role as it allows oxygen from the blood of the mother into the vessels of the fetus and diffuses carbon dioxide from fetus blood into mother’s blood system.
The placenta supplies the fetus with the required nutrients such as carbohydrate, fats, water, and vitamins before the birth to nourish it.
The placenta also plays a critical role in the production of important hormones including estrogen, progesterone, placental growth hormone and placental lactogen. However, the hormones produced by the placenta do not affect the fetus directly but they play an important role in regulating the mother’s response to pregnancy.
Apart from providing the nourishment to the fetus, the placenta also protects the fetus from infections by transferring antibodies from mother’s blood to the fetal circulation.
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