The placenta (placenta) plays a major role in pregnancy. It nourishes and protects the fetus and is associated in myth with the image of the Tree of Life. Find out what makes the placenta, what problems there may be and whether you can eat the placenta after birth.

The tasks of the placenta

Placenta tasks problems

Photo: © colourbox

The word placenta comes from the Greek (plakous) and is called "flat cake", In English, this term is from the 18th century with "placenta" translated. The flat, round placenta actually resembles in shape a cupcake. It reaches a diameter of 15-25 centimeters, a thickness of 3 cm and a weight at birth approximately one pound.

The placenta is a collection of the finest, branching blood vessels, which are surrounded by slightly spongy tissue. This institution which has a lifetime of about 280 days, is a real all-rounder:

  • It supplies the fetus during each week of pregnancy with oxygen and food
  • It shields the baby against many harmful substances and influences
  • It disposed of its metabolites and produces hormones.

But how does this high-performance organ? At the beginning of the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus at the beginning of the fourth SSW stands. Then, the child side of the placenta is formed from a portion of the so-called. Blastula. This is connected to the umbilical cord. It has fine, branching villi (the chorion). The other part of the placenta is rooted to the uterine wall and is called basal plate. It is part of the maternal tissue. The narrow space between the child and the mother's side is filled with maternal blood. Into this space, the fine villi of the child's placenta portion roots.

A "Multitasking"-Organ

The placenta not only supplies the baby with oxygen and nutrients. It also produces the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). "It ensures that the muscle layer of the uterus is not rejected, together with the fertilized egg. In addition, in a female child, it causes the first maturation of eggs in the ovaries, and in male children the descent of the testicles into the scrotum"Explains Dr. med. Nicolas Gumpert from Frankfurt.

The placenta also produces estrogen. These ensure that the breast is larger, the milk bubbles unfold there be less hair than usual, and the skin is slightly bloated. From the fourth month, the placenta also replaces the corpus luteum in the ovary in the production of the corpus luteum hormone when it regresses. The luteal hormone (progesterone) suppresses menstruation, soothes the uterine muscle, thus allowing even the continuation of the pregnancy.

Placenta helps the fetus during "Breathe"

But the great body creates even more: Caring it also transports metabolic breakdown products of the child and stale air, so carbon dioxide (CO2), from. Because even if the baby is not breathing with his lungs, already the oxygen exchange takes place in his body cells without can survive the no mammal.

And so the placenta works: The maternal blood flowing in the aforementioned blood-filled cavity in the placenta slowly to the villi along which belong to the child's side of the placenta and contain small blood vessels. About this oxygen and nutrients are absorbed (eg. B. Zucker and proteins), but also immunoglobulins (as partial protection against infection) and pass via the umbilical vein to the baby. Conversely get CO2 and metabolites via two umbilical arteries of fetus back to the villi and are delivered there to the maternal venous system.

The placental barrier - only a "partial coverage"-Insurance

Although the roots childlike villi with their fine branches in placental blood of the mother, they are not directly connected to it. A thin membrane on each villus separates the infant from the maternal bloodstream. This delicate membrane is the "placental barrier", Direct contact between the blood of the baby and his mother had numerous disadvantages. There would be problems, for example, when mother and child have different blood groups (dangerous lumps) or the mother is Rh negative, but her child Rh-positive (Attack of the child's blood by the immune system of the mother). The placenta should but also protect the child from harmful substances or pathogens.

But this barrier is not completely sealed. Your fine pores can be carried especially those substances that are relatively new to humans or, like alcohol, various poisons, drugs and medicines. But some bacteria and viruses are small enough to slip through through the tiny pores of the membrane (z. B. rubella, Ringelröteln-, chicken pox virus, etc.).

Calcifications and other problems with the placenta

Unfavorable situation: the placenta previa

If everything goes normal, the fertilized egg nests about one at the beginning of the fourth week, and thus the resulting placenta in the upper part of the uterus, and that at the first or the back wall. An anterior placenta (which lies to the abdomen of pregnant women out) is normal, but sometimes blame that a woman can feel her baby later.

Sometimes, however, the implantation of awkwardly done, namely too low and near the uterus output. it conceals it partially or entirely, this is called placenta previa (lat. praevius = above), respectively. In one-fifth of the cases, such a placenta still growing up to 24 weeks upwards. And only lying in cervix close placenta moves even "in most cases in the course upwards", Soothes Dr. med. Vincenzo Bluni in its advisory forum.

A permanent placenta previa occurs approximately in one in 200 pregnancies. Multipara Women are affected more often, which is especially true with rapid successive pregnancies. Even after caesareans, miscarriages and after surgery in the womb, the risk is increased. Depending on whether the placenta is located just on the edge, partially or completely before the cervix, the doctors decide on the mode of delivery. Sometimes there is no way on cesarean passes.

Bleeding at the edge of the placenta

To placental edge bleeding occurs when cracks in the small veins on the edge of the placenta occur. This can happen for example in deep-seated placenta, not always but the cause is clear. This bleeding usually hear soon of itself. However, it can form small blood clots near the cervix, which can be seen on ultrasound, causing bloody discharges. Who is rhesus negative, gets a precaution, a so-called. Anti-D spray as might have come in contact with each other through the placenta bleeding maternal and child-like blood. So that the mother's immune system is activated with Rh-positive baby is prevented.

Unfavorable structure of the placenta

Sometimes, however, the placenta itself is not properly developed. For example, it may happen that on the maternal placental side a certain layer of tissue (the aforementioned basal plate) is missing. Then the chorionic villi of the child's side grow directly into the muscle wall of the uterus. This is a problem because the placenta can not solve right after birth. Sometimes a woman does not come around then an operation. Foregoing uterine surgery, caesarean sections and maternal age (over 35) are thought to be risk factors.

Lacunae: Holes in the placenta

But there are abnormalities of the placenta form. These often bring no disadvantages. There is for example the lobed multiple ring-shaped or belt-shaped placenta and an additional small side placenta.

Sometimes the gynecologist discovered in high-resolution ultrasound, one or more cavities in the structure of the placenta. The technical term for these holes lacunae hot (lat. Lacuna = hole). A single lacuna is usually harmless. If there are several lacunae or interspersed with cavities placenta, however, the doctor advises mostly further investigation. Because they can be an indication of a genetic disorder in the unborn child.

Not always dangerous calcification

Many women alarmed if their physician light a "long before the end of pregnancy calcification" detects the ultrasound. The calcified placenta is a typical aging phenomenon. It is divided into different levels of severity, which one called "Grannum" designated. Grannum 1 indicates a slightly calcified placenta. It is quite common and usually harmless. "If the ultrasound findings (ultrasound) indicates an otherwise timely growth with only small calcifications and the Doppler ultrasound and in particular the CTG are fine, there is initially no need to worry"Calms gynecologist Bluni from Ennepetal.

Grannum 2 describes a moderately strong calcified placenta. With Grannum 3, however, such a strong calcified placenta is known that larger calcifications affect supply of the child.

Calcification is only a problem if it uses not only clearly premature, but the calcification zulgleich also is so strong that the supply of the baby is at risk. Smoking increases the risk of premature calcification, but is not the only cause. This can often not be determined. The child must - depending on the severity - are brought prematurely in some cases.

Insufficiency - when the placenta is not functioning optimally

In smokers, but also in women with diabetes (diabetes), preeclampsia (pregnancy-related metabolic disorder), high blood pressure, kidney disease or severe infections the function of the placenta may be disturbed. Then the child is not adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. In this case, a pregnant woman is examined closely, and the doctor decides whether the child may need to be taken earlier.


Is threatening premature solution of parts of the placenta from the uterus wall. They usually causes cramping and bleeding. In the worst case, the placenta dissolves in the middle part, so that blood between the uterine wall and the placenta forms. Such a separation is made apparent through severe cramps, anxiety, restlessness and weakness felt and is a life-threatening emergency for mother and child, in which a woman must be taken immediately to a hospital.

Causes of premature detachment of the placenta can be a car accident, a strong impact on your stomach or a violent fall. Even with pre-eclampsia or an attempted from the outside by doctors turn the child may become detached. If a woman has had an accident at home or on the road, an ultrasound inspection of the placenta is important.

eat placenta - what to do with the placenta after birth?

For most women, a birth is complete when they hold their baby after the long weeks of pregnancy in her arms. For the obstetrician is not true: you are waiting for the delivery of the placenta, because only if they worked without problems, breezing is announced. The placenta is transported along with the fetal membranes and the rest of the uncut umbilical cord of the aftermath to light. If the placenta there is scrutinized, whether it is complete. Stay residues on the uterine wall it could cause persistent bleeding because the former site of attachment of the placenta can not heal. In this case, curettage must be made.

But what happens after the birth? Previously, the hospitals often gave the placenta continue to cosmetics manufacturers who turned it into hormone-containing anti-wrinkle creams. Because of the fear of AIDS and other infectious diseases this is no longer happening today, the placenta is disposed of. But some women they can hand out to be make in certain pharmacies or by manufacturers of homeopathic medicines from globules. This will strengthen the immune system of the mother, they support breastfeeding and help prevent postpartum depression.

US star Kim Kardashian has can be made from your placenta pills:

The placenta burial - an old custom

Some parents take the placenta also home to bury her in the garden and plant a sapling it. This custom of "life sapling" to grow very healthy and strong child. Burying the placenta has ancient roots. The Egyptians practiced the so-called. Nachgeburts burial 5500 years ago, as an excavated illustration shows. The same is true for the early Jews in the Middle East, as the Talmud is that mentions this custom. In Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand it is common to this day in some places with the aborigines. Also in Germany this tradition is old, researchers found during excavations in many parts of medieval pottery with placenta residues.

Origin of such practices is the notion that the placenta contained a part of the essence of the child. In Nepal is called the placenta does not happen to the "the child's friend"That Malays consider even "older sibling"And in the Sudan it is regarded as the intellectual image of the child. And because the placenta is animated, it must not be thrown away, so faith in many cultures, because otherwise it might takes revenge on the child, who is then sick. In Yemen, however, there are still some places the custom to put the afterbirth for the birds on the house roof. This is to let the love of parents flying up in the sky.

eat the placenta and other unusual "uses of"

Even a work of art, the placenta has already become: Micha Brendel, artists from the former East Germany, showed a few years ago at the Berlin Charité his exhibition "planet and placentas", Metal frame framed it as window crosses each four placentas together to a hanging display board.

Some intrepid mothers eat the placenta even to themselves - following the example of many mammals - incorporate their nutrients. There is the internet for curious recipes: placenta with broccoli, in tomato sauce or lasagna or spaghetti. but could not be found eating a benefit for maternal health through the placenta. Rather, even the worry that it could hurt to eat the placenta. After all, it acts so as a pollutant filter for the baby, so so can also plug it poisons in it. Followers of alternative healing arts also recommend they called for healing salve, that. "Mother fat" to process. For this, it is dried, grated, mixed with butter and baked in the oven.

No matter what you're doing with the placenta: it is your property, so you have a legal right to and can (preferably with prior notice) let you deliver after childbirth him.