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The placenta is a gift that keeps on giving

Birth is very exciting because a new baby has come into the world. Shortly after the baby is born another exciting thing happens, the placenta exits the uterus.

The placenta is an amazing organ. It forms around the fourth week of the pregnancy. Cells of the embryo separate and go deep into the wall of the uterus. These cells turn into a flat-shaped organ called the placenta. Placenta comes from the Latin and Greek words for “flat cake.”

The placenta is integral to the health of the baby. The placenta helps oxygen in the blood of the mother to move into fetal blood vessels. It also diffuses carbon dioxide from the fetal blood into the mother’s blood system. The placenta takes nutrients from the mother’s blood and passes them to the baby. It also makes nutrients for the baby. The placenta produces hormones that affect the baby and the lining of the uterus. Lastly, the placenta builds a defense system to protect the baby from different types of infections.

Years ago, there was a doctor I worked with who loved to give the mother a lecture about the amazing placenta after she delivered it. He would hold it up and explain how vital the placenta was for her baby and told her she should say “thank you” to her placenta.

The placenta is a gift that keeps on giving.

If you are a mother who is planning on having a scheduled cesarean delivery you can donate the placenta. You must be healthy with no active cancer or infectious disease. There are consent forms and blood work that needs to be done prior to surgery. Your physician can help you with the process.

This is not new. Human amniotic membrane has been used for reconstructive surgical procedures since the early 1900s. Science has now progressed to the point where the amniotic membrane, the part of the placenta that is closest to the uterine wall, is used for many amazing healing procedures. Amniotic membrane is used to replace damaged ocular (eye) tissue. It is used to treat chemical burns, corneal ulceration, and as a reconstructive aid in eye surgeries.

Amniotic membrane is also showing promise in the area of dentistry to treat gum disease. It allows the patient’s gum tissue to promote the growth of new tissue, replacing tissue lost to gum disease.

Athletes sometimes suffer from soft tissue injuries from both trauma and overuse. Small tears in soft tissue can become inflamed and may weaken and be prone to tearing. Amniotic membrane helps by delivering growth factors and other natural proteins to reduce scar tissue formation and inflammation. This enhances the healing of micro tears in soft tissue.

If you know you are going to have a cesarean delivery, I encourage you to discuss donating your placenta with your doctor . You will have given life to a new baby. Why not share the potential healing properties of the placenta? It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at katie.powers@mmhhs.com.

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