Updated: May 18
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor am I giving medical advice. As a certified doula and veteran birth photographer, I have been able to work alongside talented OBGYNs, midwives, student midwives, nurses, NICU staff and experienced doulas. I will list my sources at the end of this blog. Open discussion is encouraged and I am more than willing to be corrected on anything that I may have misunderstood or anything that I can gain to add to the knowledge I aim to provide to the public. I also alternate between the words fetus/baby as both have validity both in science and in the personal human experience. None of this blog post is intended to offend. This blog post is meant to reveal things that people may not know.
*any line with a star will have the source sited at the bottom of this blog post.
How many of you ever got to see your placenta? I might have a slight obsession with them as they are incredibly complex and worthy of great respect.
Did you know that the female body grows this organ specifically for the baby/babies?
*Did you also know that placenta essentially acts as a shield to protect itself and the fetus from the mother's body rejecting it? Although our bodies are designed to procreate, our bodies are also designed to attack anything that is foreign in the body.
Sperm entering our body is "foreign".
-bare with me-
This is where the placenta development enters to shield the developing fetus. This is why many women do not know, for weeks or even months at a time, that they are even pregnant. It is incredible how this organ acts as a "cloak of invisibility" for a period to protect the baby from external harm.
After baby is born, the placenta is the last to be "born". Sometimes this is referred to the 4th stage of labor. Also known as, "delivery of the placenta".
If you have seen your placenta or a photo of one before, did you know that there are two sides to it? One side is the one you'll probably see on social media where it has shades of purple and blue with veins running through it. It usually looks smoother in texture around the veins. The outward pouring of the vessels are commonly compared to the likes of a tree. (Or "tree of life")
This side also has the umbilical cord attached to it. This cord has up to 30% of your baby's blood. Once baby is born, the umbilical cord pumps (yes, pumps) the blood to your baby's body. *The video above shows the umbilical cord pulsating blood to baby. It was purple/blue and turns white when finished.
This side also houses the sac where the baby grows inside. The sac contains blood vessels. (pictured below)
Inside of this sac, the baby is covered in a thick white substance called "Vernix". This protects baby's skin from infections, abrasions, chapping & hardening that can result from exposure to amniotic fluid. This is why babies do not come out "pruny" like we do when we sit in a bath for extended periods of time. When this sac breaks, (water breaking) the baby is released to enter the birth canal.
However, the OTHER side of it, is red.
This side is rarely discussed.
This side attaches to the uterine wall. This organ literally detaches from the wall and creates a wound the size of the placenta side attached. It may be alarming, however it is normal to have contractions after baby and placenta are out. This is why fundal massages are performed. Fundal massages are NOT typically comfortable. They do not have to be painful in nature, however due to the the muscles in our abdomens that were overworked during labor, sometimes hours or days on end, it can be incredibly sensitive to touch. Especially during a firm massage.
The fundal massage is important to help the wound clot and get any remnants of the placenta out. Your uterus, that housed the baby/babies, literally shrinks to the size of a grapefruit from that wound, regardless of size of placenta. This is where the introduction of synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) can be administered into the leg to help the uterus stop bleeding, if bleeding does not gradually slow on its own. (hemorrhage prevention)
This is why women wear diapers or pads to catch the blood from the literal open wound healing inside of our uterus and vaginal stitching if tearing occurred. There is a lot to heal inside of us.
* Placenta masking in body:
*Umbilical Cord video:
From one of my births
All images are taken from my client's birth and have been given me consent to use on this specific blog post for educational purposes.