The word placenta comes from a Latin and Greek word meaning type of cake, the placenta cake was not a placenta cake at all, it was a flat cake made up from layers of dough with cheese layers, bay leaves and also honey!
The placenta was given its name, as it looks flat and round, may be like the above cake!
Your placenta is an amazing thing, it is grown specifically for your baby, and starts growing pretty much as soon as the egg is implanted, or attaches itself, to the wall of your womb, before you find out that you are pregnant.
Early into your pregnancy you may start to feel sick, this is a normal response to an increase in pregnancy hormones, some of which will start to be produced by the placenta. One of these hormones is Progesterone. Progesterone acts on the muscles of your womb to make the muscles relaxed. It also affects other smooth muscle in your body, like your intestines and bowels, this can make going to the toilet slower, meaning you may go less frequently, or you may feel a bit constipated.
Constipation in pregnancy is common, it comes from the Progesterone slowing everything down. This means that as the waste or poo travels through your intestines more slowly, your body can take in more water from the waste, making the poo or stools harder. This is why an increase in fibre and water is good for you. Fibre attracts water. Water makes the waste softer. All in all, everything becomes a bit more comfy!
Your placenta is going to help your baby receive all the nutrients and oxygen that they need to grow, it is also going to carry away from your baby everything that it doesn’t need and red cells to be re-oxygenated. To do this, as it starts to grow, it sends out what you may like to think of as roots into the womb. These roots have a barrier over them, this barrier, stops the blood from you and your baby from mixing. You each have your own blood supply, this can also be a different blood group.
This is why the barrier helps, it stops both your bloods from mixing and reacting to each other. You may like to think of it as a sieve or cotton cloth. Only things small enough to pass through can, and things that are too big are kept out! Your body is truly amazing!
Once your placenta has sent out all of the roots, this is how your baby receives everything it needs and gets rid of everything it doesn’t need. But that is not all that it does!
It is thought that the placenta helps to take through to your baby healthy bacteria that helps with their immune system too!
You can find out more about how the placenta helps with preparing your body for birth in a Real Birth Workshop.