Facts About Placenta During Pregnancy

10 min read

Written by Sindhuja Prabhu

Sindhuja Prabhu

Did you know, when you get pregnant, you grow another organ in your body? Yes, a whole new organ in addition to that whole new human being! This miraculous organ is what keeps that baby safe and sound till it’s time to come into the world.

What is Placenta?

So let’s start at the very beginning. When you find out about your pregnancy, your body has already grown a new organ called ‘placenta’. This organ is attached to the uterus and houses the fetus. The placenta during pregnancy is generally attached either to the top or side of the uterus.

Everyone talks about the ‘womb’ where the baby is grown. Everyone is aware of the ‘uterus’ that is extremely and most obviously important to get pregnant. However, the knowledge about the placenta is not so widespread. Many mothers learn about the placenta during the pregnancy, either from their doctor or through her research online.

The placenta during pregnancy is the organ that filters out all unnecessary things and sends in only what is required for the growing fetus. The oxygen, glucose, and all other nutrients that are required for the baby’s growth pass from the mother’s blood, through the placenta during pregnancy.


Placenta During Pregnancy:

So, what exactly happens to the placenta during pregnancy? Let’s find out!

  • The placenta during pregnancy is developed somewhere towards the bottom of your womb.
  • It then slowly moves up or to the side and attaches itself to the uterus.
  • It stays in the body till the end of the pregnancy.
  • The umbilical cord is the connection between the baby and the placenta during pregnancy.
  • The placenta detaches itself from the uterine wall when it is time for delivery.
  • Once the placenta detaches, the baby stops receiving everything from the mother, including oxygen.
  • It is expelled after the child’s birth. Yes, unfortunately, you may have to “deliver twice” when you deliver your baby.

Facts About Placenta:

There are a whole lot of things to know about the placenta during pregnancy. Read on, and you may be surprised by this wonderful ‘temporary’ organ in your body.

  1. Different Blood

    Did you know that the mother and the baby do not share blood during the entire pregnancy? Yes, during pregnancy, the placenta ensures the mother’s blood does not mix with that of the baby’s. Hence, the placenta, during pregnancy, gives the baby a different blood group from the mother’s in many cases.

  2. Hormones

    The placenta during pregnancy is responsible for producing all the hormones required. Estrogen, lactogen, and progesterone are some of the important hormones required during pregnancy. The HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) that actually tells you are pregnant is also produced by the placenta. These have to be maintained at the right levels for a healthy and safe pregnancy.

  3. Umbilical Cord

    We all know about the umbilical cord. Many of us don’t know that it is the placenta during pregnancy that passes all the “food” for the baby through this cord. The umbilical cord’s cutting is how the baby is separated from the placenta – and thus from the mother’s body.

  4. Protective Shield

    Have you heard of stories where the mother might suffer some illness but it wouldn’t have affected the baby in the least? This is because the placenta during pregnancy ensures the baby is safe from all infections that might be present in the mother’s blood.

    What’s more, one of the important facts about the placenta is it passes antibodies to the baby, towards the end of the pregnancy. These antibodies are very important for the survival of the baby outside the womb.

  5. Breast Feeding

    The mother’s body needs time to prepare itself to feed the baby after delivery. The placenta during pregnancy takes care of this important process. The various hormones and nutrients required for breastfeeding are also produced by the placenta during pregnancy.

    Though the placenta acts like an invisible shield protecting the baby, it is not immune to everything. Drugs, alcohol, and medicines can pass through the placenta during pregnancy and reach the baby. This is precisely why doctors ask mothers to be very careful and quit all damaging habits at least for the course of the pregnancy.

  6. Placenta Delivery

    Once you deliver that beautiful baby and meet them for the first time, your joy knows no bounds. However, you still have some work left before you can start cherishing that little bundle. Remember the placenta that has been connecting you and the baby all these months? You will have to deliver it to expel it from your body.

    So, why is it absolutely necessary to deliver this placenta? The new mother has just gone through hours of labor and must be beyond tired.

    The placenta during pregnancy has a major role and once the pregnancy comes to an end, so does its role. The organ itself becomes nothing but dead tissue. If this placenta is not expelled completely from the body, it can rot away inside the mother’s body. Even a tiny bit of placenta left behind after surgery can be not just harmful, but very poisonous to the mother.

  7. Lotus Birth

    Not many know of this, and hence awareness about this type of birth is very minimal. Lotus birth is where the umbilical cord is not cut, once the baby is delivered. This type of birth follows the belief that the baby can continue to get important nutrients even after the placenta delivery. The mother is helped to deliver the placenta while the baby is still attached to it. This ensures every last bit of nutrients possible from the mother’s body is transferred to the baby.

Unpleasant Facts:

While the role of the placenta during pregnancy can awe us, there are some abnormalities of the placenta we need to be aware of too. Since we know the placenta during pregnancy is very important for not only a healthy pregnancy but for a healthy baby as well, a little “malfunctioning” of this organ can cause a lot of trouble- mentally, if not physically, in some cases!

So, What are the Abnormalities of the Placenta?

  1. Placental Insufficiency

    This is one of the common abnormalities of the placenta experienced by expecting mothers. If the placenta during pregnancy does not develop as required, it cannot produce the required hormones. A shortage of hormones can affect both the pregnancy and the unborn baby. Low birth weight, growth restrictions for the fetus, hormonal imbalance in the mother are some of the outcomes if the placenta during pregnancy does not function properly.

  2. Infarcts

    A rare occurrence – the presence of dead tissues inside the placenta, more than what the body can handle. The dead tissues inside the placenta are known as infarcts. All placentas generally have a few infarcts throughout the pregnancy. However, when these increase, it reduces the blood flow in the areas where the dead tissues are present. The pregnant mother’s severe hypertension experience can increase these infarcts, thereby increasing the “complications” that come with increased infarcts in the placenta during pregnancy.

  3. Preeclampsia

    placenta preeclampsiaThis is one of the common and problematic abnormalities of the placenta. So, your doctor checks your blood pressure and protein content in your urine, from time to time during your pregnancy. Have you ever wondered why? Your gynecologist keeps a tab on your blood pressure to ensure preeclampsia doesn’t occur. High blood pressure is one of the leading symptoms in addition to:

    • Gaining weight excessively in a short span of time
    • Swelling of fingers, hands, and even legs
    • Headaches

    Since the above three symptoms are synonymous with pregnancy, they can be missed easily. However, if you see a drastic change, it never hurts to get it checked by your doctor.

  4. Placental Abruption

    The placenta during pregnancy is attached to the uterine wall throughout. It detaches itself from the uterus only when it is time for delivery. However, in rare cases, this abruption can occur sooner, thereby resulting in unwanted complications. The abruption can be either partial or complete.

    • When the placenta during pregnancy suffers an abruption, significant bleeding needs to be monitored. More the abruption, the more the bleeding.
    • If the baby is far along enough to survive outside the womb, a cesarean section might be performed to take the baby out.
    •  If the placental abruption occurs early in the pregnancy, it prevents the baby from receiving any required nutrients, or even oxygen from the mother. Thus causing either the death of the baby or requiring the pregnancy to be terminated.
    • Mild bleeding can be handled with continuous observation. However, heavy bleeding might require an emergency cesarean section to ensure the baby’s survival.

    Though the occurrence of such an event is less than 1%, it is the leading cause of death for unborn or newborn babies. High rates of fetal growth restriction, as well as premature births, are associated with placental abruption, understandably so.


Here are some of the symptoms that can indicate an abruption of the placenta during pregnancy. However, only an ultrasound can confirm it.

  • Bleeding vaginally
  • Uterine pain
  • Uterine contractions that persist
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate

When Should you be Worried?

Certain women are more prone to placental abruption than others. You need not worry about being a part of that category unless:

  • You have had a placental abruption earlier.
  • There is a history of abruption of the placenta during pregnancy, in the family.
  • Trauma to the abdominal area due to an accident
  • Defects in the uterus
  • Cigarette smoking or substance abuse
  • Circumvallate placenta – which is very rareplacenta accreta

Placenta Accreta:

When the placenta during pregnancy grows very deeply into the uterus’ inner wall, the attachment is very firm. This strong attachment will prevent it from separating easily and properly after the child’s birth. This attachment of the placenta during pregnancy can cause severe bleeding after delivery. Emergency surgery may be required even if it was a vaginal birth. Sometimes, the bleeding is so severe and unstoppable that the entire uterus may have to be removed to save the mother.

What Are The Types Of Placenta?

Did you know there are different types of the placenta? The types of placenta during pregnancy differ from species to species. However, since we are dealing with only humans here, let’s just stick to types of placenta during pregnancy in a human. Generally, the position of the placenta in pregnancy is referred to as the type of placenta.

The types of placenta you can hear about are:

  • Posterior Placenta – Back of the uterus
  • Anterior Placenta – Front of the uterus
  • Fundal Placenta – Top of the uterus
  • On the side of the uterus
  • Placenta Previa – Bottom of the uterus covering the cervix

Placenta Position In Pregnancy:

The placement of the placenta during pregnancy is extremely important for the successful outcome of the pregnancy. As this organ develops, it can float and attach itself to any part of the uterus. It normally will attach to the upper or the sides of the uterine wall. However, in rare cases, it can attach to other areas as well.

  1. Posterior Placenta During Pregnancy:

    When the placenta during pregnancy attaches itself to the uterine wall’s back, it is known as a posterior placenta. The posterior placenta during pregnancy allows the mother to feel that flutter kicks very early in the pregnancy. Feeling those tiny movements are very exciting for every mother.

    This position of the placenta during pregnancy can also make it easier for the doctor to find the heartbeat and monitor other movements of the baby. The posterior placenta during pregnancy is believed to be an optimal position.

    Posterior Placenta and Baby Gender

    Any research does not back the posterior placenta gender correlation.  However, this type of placenta is believed to house a boy baby.

  2. Anterior Placenta During Pregnancy:

    When the placenta during pregnancy attaches itself to the front of the uterus, it is known as an anterior placenta. Anterior placenta during pregnancy can make it difficult for the mother to feel the growing baby’s kicks. It may take longer for these mothers to feel the first movements of their baby.

    Also, the anterior placenta during pregnancy can make it difficult for the doctor to find the fetus’s heartbeat. This does not mean there is anything wrong. Your ultrasound may take more time. A well-experienced doctor should be able to maneuver around the uterus well irrespective of the position of the placenta.

    Anterior Placenta and Gender

    Though not backed by any concrete research, a mother with an anterior placenta is believed to be carrying a girl.

  3. Placenta on the Sides:

    This type of placenta is not discussed much though the occurrence is as likely as a posterior or an anterior placenta. Here the placenta during pregnancy will either attach itself to the right or the left side of the uterine wall.

  4. Placenta Previa:

    This is a condition where the placenta during pregnancy attaches itself to the lower part of the uterus instead of the upper part. Placenta previa is observed to occur more in certain races of women. The chances of such a placenta position in pregnancy are more if you have had a cesarean section or an abortion earlier. Now don’t worry, this happens in less than 1% of pregnancies. So, unless your gynecologist is concerned, you need not fret over this rare condition.

    placenta previa

    Partial Placenta Previa

    In this type of placenta, the opening of the cervix is only partially covered. This type of placenta during pregnancy allows a good chance for vaginal delivery.

    Marginal Placenta Previa

    This is when the position of the placenta during pregnancy does not completely block the cervix. As the baby grows, the placenta can move away from the cervix, thereby increasing the chances of vaginal birth.

    Complete Placenta Previa

    This is when the placenta during pregnancy completely blocks the cervix. This makes a vaginal birth impossible, thereby resulting in a cesarean section.

    Low Lying Placenta

    This is when the placenta during pregnancy attaches itself towards the bottom of the uterus. In this type of placenta, the mother might be put on bed rest for the major part of the pregnancy. This is to ensure the increasing weight of the fetus does not push against the cervix, causing it to open. If not taken care of, this type of placenta can lead to a miscarriage or a premature delivery.

What is Placenta Position Gender Prediction?

Many believe that the placenta position in pregnancy can help them determine the gender of the baby inside. Though this has not been backed by any research, many people continue to guess gender this way. Your ultrasound will tell you the placenta position, and then it’s up to you to determine the gender.

In India, gender determination is a legal offense. People who are very keen on identifying the baby’s gender try to do so with the placenta position in pregnancy.

Even though the placenta position in pregnancy cannot help you precisely determine the baby’s gender, it can be fun to use. Couples can guess the gender of the baby and wait till the birth to find out whose prediction was right.

Please remember that whether it is a boy or a girl, a baby is a gift nevertheless. We have come a long way since female infanticide, and today, parents embrace both boy and girl children equally. The gender of the child should not determine your love for them. It should not come in the way of their talents and opportunities as well.

The type of placenta or position of the placenta during pregnancy bears more importance than identifying gender. Do remember, the position of the placenta during pregnancy can change from trimester to trimester.

This is why a final ultrasound towards the end of the pregnancy is required. This scan will confirm the position of the placenta and help your doctor be prepared for delivery. In the case of a cesarean section, the placenta position is extremely important.

Sindhuja Prabhu,M.Sc (Psychology),PGDBM

Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.

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