It’s all about the placenta

Week 10 of pregnancy sees you edging closer and closer to the end of your first trimester. Hopefully your morning sickness is beginning to fade, and you may even feel slightly more energetic. The most exciting development this week is that your baby’s heart is fully formed and beating at 180 beats per minute (double the speed of your own!) and his placenta reaches full development.

Below, one mum gets a grip on what’s really going on inside at week 10.

The placenta makes itself known – One mum’s perspective

As I entered double digits for the number of weeks pregnant I was, it really felt like my baby and I were getting somewhere; his facial features were forming and his milk teeth had developed inside his tiny gums. Just 30 weeks to go! I knew all about the incredible changes that had taken place inside my uterus since day 1 of my pregnancy, but I realised that I had much less understanding exactly how my body was achieving this.

Everyone knows that with each pregnancy there’s a placenta (well, most mildly interested parties anyway!), but not everyone will actually understand its structure and function and where it came from. There’s reams of information out there about foetal development – but much less about the placenta. I personally had no idea that it was behind one of my most worrying times during my pregnancy.

I first started to experience the dreaded morning sickness when I was five weeks pregnant. It started very suddenly one day, I’d been absolutely fine and I’d eaten a tuna sandwich for lunch. I went back to work for an important meeting and whilst trying to focus on the Q1 projections I was suddenly overcome by intense nausea. Out of absolutely nowhere. Needless to say my participation in the meeting was minimal; it was all I could do not to vomit right there and then.

From that point onwards, I felt constantly sick for five weeks. I never actually vomited but the nausea never went away.

There were only certain foods that I could eat, I couldn’t tolerate most smells and I pretty much lived on bananas. Pregnancy was a thankless task at that stage and trying to hide both it and how bad I felt was nigh on impossible.

My partner’s sister had a birthday meal coming up and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get through it in front of his family, barely able to look at food, never mind eat it. And the day before the meal, as suddenly as it had started, the nausea stopped. I was 10 weeks pregnant. I didn’t feel perfect, but I certainly felt a lot better and I was able to eat semi-normally again. I always expected the sickness to start back up again at some point, but it didn’t.

After a few days of feeling comparatively normal, I began to have a nagging fear that the nausea had gone away because there was something wrong with the pregnancy. I’d read all about miscarriages, and missed miscarriages, and I practically willed myself to feel ill again. But I didn’t. I felt no sickness at all.

This went on for a few days and the worry began to interfere with my work, home life – everything. I just could not shake the fear that my baby had died in utero and that was why my pregnancy symptoms had stopped. Eventually, tearfully, I decided to ring my midwife and see what she had to say. And I was so glad I did because she put my mind at rest instantly.

“The placenta develops alongside the baby from the moment of fertilisation,” she told me, “but it doesn’t actually reach its full function until week 10 of pregnancy. Once the placenta is completely formed it takes over the work of supporting the baby and the hormones that have been floating around your body making you feel sick and ill are diverted through it. In some women, this means that their morning sickness clears up pretty rapidly.”

I explained what had happened to me, and how worried I was, and she was able to reassure me that it was totally normal to lose pregnancy symptoms around this stage. I’d had no idea exactly what my placenta was doing inside me, so I’ve gathered together some placental facts that helped me understand what was really going on inside my body at week 10.

What exactly is a placenta?

For those not in the know, the placenta is a multi-functional organ which develops during pregnancy to become your baby’s in utero life support system. Yes, it really is that important; it’s connected to your baby through the umbilical cord and will sustain him throughout the entire pregnancy.

Where does it come from?

I had assumed that the placenta was something that was created entirely by the mother. But actually, your baby’s father has had a role in making it too. In the very early stages after the egg is fertilised, a blastocyst is formed (the tiny bundle of cells that will go on to become your baby). The baby and the placenta both come from this blastocyst, meaning that the male gamete has had a hand in forming it. Who knew?!

What does the placenta actually do?

The placenta itself becomes attached to the uterine wall and it becomes the gateway for the necessary nutrition, oxygen and antibodies from the mother’s body to pass through to the baby. (Antibodies from the mother received through the placenta can actually provide protection for your baby for up to six months after birth.)
The placenta also removes waste products, such as carbon dioxide. Essentially it’s looking after your baby 24/7 as he grows inside you.

Fun fact: Many parents believe in the nutritional properties of the placenta and choose to eat it. The belief is that the placenta has unique nutrients which are beneficial to your health. There’s no credible medical research to support this, but it’s thought that the Kardashian sisters consumed their babies’ placentas. And in this modern age of celebrity culture, that will be more than enough for some people to follow suit.

Important – If you or your child are unwell you should seek medical advice from a professional – contact your GP or visit an A&E department in an emergency. While My BabyManual strives to provide dependable and trusted advice 24/7 via our website pages, we cannot provide individual answers to specific healthcare questions.
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