The twins placenta, although, apart from the 2 cords it looks just like any other. This is how it would look to you if you were inside the uterus, it’s the baby’s side. The greyish/white covering is actually the membranes, the sac, there are 2 of them, the chorion which is the outer one, and the amnion which is the inner one.
This is the inner surface and it is attached to the wall of the womb. It is implanted into the tissue of the uterus and it basically peels off when the size of the uterus reduces. A placenta is usually about the size of a small dinner plate so you can see why bleeding following birth can be massive, imagine that where the afterbirth comes from is a huge wound and it’s easy to understand why, if the uterus doesn’t contract down tightly, there can be rapid blood loss, a postpartum haemorrhage, PPH.
Anyone feeling squeamish? When I was a new student midwife I hated placentae. They had a strange odour, were mucky, cold and I was expected to handle them. This wasn’t some strange initiation, it is part and parcel of the tasks following a birth. The placenta has to be checked, are the membranes intact or are they ragged? If they are ragged then there is a chance of bleeding or infection. How about the placenta itself, is it all there? In the second picture a small lobe of placenta can be seen a couple of inches away from the main body, but attached by blood vessels. This lobe could have been left behind, undetected it would have prevented the uterus from contracting down and this would have precipitated a PPH. However, when examining the placenta all the edges are checked, attention being paid to if there are any blood vessels which come to a sudden end.
The cord, umbilical cord is also checked. Does it look normal, are there any knots in it? How many blood vessels are there, there should be 3, 2 arteries and a vein.
It may also be necessary to take blood from the cord, perhaps there are concerns that baby may have been compromised during labour or birth, cord blood gases can indicate if baby has been affected and may require intensive care. Mum may be rhesus negative, we need to know what baby’s blood group is, the blood in the cord will tell us this.
My attitude toward the placenta has softened, it does help that when I touch them they are warm, but I now appreciate quite how amazing they are. With all the technology we have there is nothing that can do the same job as a placenta, without it a baby wouldn’t start growing and a successful pregnancy is dependent on a healthy placenta, it is an amazing life-support system. Researchers are now finding out that it is even more wonderful, even more sci-fi, it hides itself and the baby from the Mother’s immune system and so protects from rejection. It has long been believed that eating the placenta can reduce the risk of postnatal depression, I can’t say that it appeals to me, but if anyone out there fancies cooking up a feast then here’s a link to some recipes. Mmmmm, placenta lasagne, tasty! I wonder if that is how Tom Cruise enjoyed Suri’s afterbirth?
So, having been tongue-in-cheek about munching on a placenta, or placentophagia what did I do with my Grandchildren’s placentae? Being a silly, sentimental old fool I bought them home, buried them in the garden and planted the area with flowers that would bloom, be at their best, at the time the afterbirths had finished their work of growing my Grandchildren. I am not alone in celebrating their part in creating a healthy baby. In the Philippines the placenta is buried on the seashore in the belief it bestows good health on the baby. In Vietnam the placenta is buried under the Mother’s bed, obviously acknowledging it’s significance to the baby. Hawaiian culture best sums up my feelings about the placenta, they bury it and plant a tree over it, as they perceive it as part of the child. There are ten’s of traditions involving the placenta, one acquiring popularity at the present time is lotus birthing, I can see possible problems, but the reason I wouldn’t want it for me, or mine, is that I know what an umbilical cord smells like just before it separates, rank.
I’ve enjoyed writing this, there is so much information about customs and beliefs concerning placentae, it has really re-inforced my wonder about this basic looking companion to a baby.