Placenta: what it is and what care during pregnancy

The placenta is one of the themes that gain prominence during pregnancy. It is very important for the child to develop in a healthy way.

However, there are some problems that can occur during the months of pregnancy, putting the health of the mother and baby at risk. Learn more about the placenta, what problems can arise and also what to do with it after delivery:


What is placenta and what does it do?

The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. This structure provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby and removes waste products from the child’s blood, such as urine.

Therefore, its function is to protect and sustain pregnancy for nine months, in addition to promoting communication between the mother and the fetus and contributing to the development of the fetus.

Below are some functions of the placenta:

  • Helps to stimulate the production of hormones like estrogen, progesterone and lactogen – important for milk production;
  • Provides immunological protection for the baby;
  • Protects against impacts that may occur near the mother’s belly;
  • It filters the blood of the pregnant woman, eliminating what can be harmful;
  • Transports oxygen, glucose, calcium, water, among other substances, to the baby;
  • Removes carbon dioxide and other waste, eliminated by the mother’s body;
  • Controls the chorionic gonadotropin hormone, which is essential to fix the embryo to the uterus.

The placenta is about 500g, and one part is in contact with the mother’s uterus and the other part is connected to the baby, through the umbilical cord.

However, she can undergo several unwanted changes during pregnancy, bringing risks and complications for both the mother and the baby.

Prior or low placenta

Ideally, the placenta should be in the center or more at the bottom of the uterus. However, in some cases, it can be at the bottom of the reproductive organ. Thus, it is called the placenta previa or low.

This is more common in early pregnancy and can cause severe vaginal bleeding during pregnancy or childbirth.

If the condition persists until the end of the third trimester, the doctor is likely to recommend a caesarean section. This is because if the placenta is in front of the baby, there is a risk of detachment, which can cause the child’s death.

Placenta acreta

Normally, the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus shortly after delivery. With the placenta accreta, it remains firmly attached to the uterus.

This condition can cause severe blood loss during delivery. In more severe cases, the placenta invades the muscles of the uterus or grows through the uterine wall. Thus, caesarean section and removal of the uterus after delivery are indicated.

Placenta parcreta

Also known as placental accretism, the condition is characterized by abnormal invasion of the placental tissue in addition to the inner superficial layer of the uterus, called decidua.

This generally occurs in women who have had other cesarean sections and have had cases of placenta previa. It is known that the greater the number of cesarean sections performed, the greater the risk that this type of placenta will appear.

It is associated with severe bleeding during childbirth, especially if you try to forcefully remove the placenta. Therefore, the diagnosis of this type of placenta is essential to not endanger the life of the mother and baby.

What is placental detachment?

The detachment of the placenta is a serious complication of pregnancy. It happens when the placenta partly or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery.

This situation can decrease or block the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients and cause heavy bleeding in the mother. The detachment usually happens suddenly. If the condition is not treated, there are risks for both the mother and the baby.

It is more likely to happen in the last trimester of pregnancy, especially in the last few weeks before birth.

As it is a very serious situation, it is essential that the future mother keep an eye on the symptoms that arise and seek medical help as soon as possible.

See details of the symptoms below:

  • Vaginal bleeding that can be intense or mild;
  • Abdominal pain;
  •  Back pain;
  •  Uterine sensitivity or stiffness;
  •  Frequent uterine contractions.

It is worth mentioning that abdominal and back pain can start suddenly. And the amount of vaginal bleeding can vary and, in some cases, there may be no visible bleeding.

This can happen due to trauma or injury to the abdomen or because of a rapid loss of fluid that surrounds and protects the baby in the womb – known as amniotic fluid.

Among the risk factors for this complication are: having chronic high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, using drugs during pregnancy, infection inside the uterus and being older (over 40 years old).

What to do with the placenta after delivery?

In the past, after births, placentas were discarded in hospitals. But today, more and more parents are maintaining the placenta after birth.

Below are details on how the placenta can be used:

Eating the placenta

Some women choose to eat the placenta after delivery. The practice is called placentophagy and there are experts who claim that consuming the placenta right after delivery helps to replenish the amounts of iron in the body. And so, the woman would be more willing and would also increase milk production.

They usually turn the placenta into pills or add vitamins – so they prepare the drink with the organ, milk and fruit after delivery.

It is worth emphasizing that there is still no scientific evidence that the consumption of the placenta provides health benefits. However, some women report feeling more energy after consuming the placenta. According to some Eastern beliefs, the placenta contains healing properties and nutrients.

This practice is still not very common in Brazil, but in countries like the United States, Canada and England, for example, women usually have access to capsules and tinctures made with the placenta.

If the woman has a desire to encapsulate the placenta, she needs to apply to the hospital in advance. The organ must be placed in a clean container and free from other substances, such as formaldehyde.

After that, it should be stored in the refrigerator for about 48 hours. If it passes this period, the ideal is that it is frozen to reduce the risk of bacterial proliferation.


Some women choose to keep the placenta as a souvenir or include it in works of art such as paintings or stamps. There are also those who prefer to bury the placenta together with a plant or tree.