The placenta is essential to a healthy pregnancy. It functions for the baby and the mother from 5-6th weeks of gestation, until it is expelled naturally after the birth of the baby. Many birth professionals believe that when leaving baby and placenta attached via the umbilical cord, the placenta is able to assist the baby even outside of the womb. This is called placental resuscitation and it the most incredible event to witness. When a baby is born unresponsive the placenta is placed into a warm bowl of water and is physically stimulated. By doing this, the placenta is able to quickly transfer blood and Qi that is contained within the organ, through the umbilical cord into the baby. It has been reported many times that soon after doing this baby takes the first breath, pinks up and stabilizes.
The placenta has two sides, maternal and fetal. The maternal side (also called the Duncan) attaches the mother’s uterus and blood vessels during the pregnancy. By doing this, the placenta is able to access the mother’s blood supply that is rich in nutrients, hormones and oxygen. The cotyledons (hills on the maternal side) imbed into the uterine wall. In between the cotyledons are crevices called sulci that fill with the mother’s blood supply. The sulci and cotyledons distribute the blood into the intervillous (middle) space of the placenta.
On the fetal side (also called the Shultz) lies the intricate vein structure of the placenta. These are known as the chorionic veins. This is the side of the placenta that the baby sees during the pregnancy and is also the side that the umbilical cord inserts into. The chorionic veins extend into the placenta. These extensions are called the villi. The chorionic veins and the villi are essentially the same component. Their function, however, changes once the veins leave the visible side of the placenta and extend into the middle portion. Villi look very similar to the mammary glands within the breast. The villi allow the fetus to obtain the nutrients, hormones and other vital substances from the mother’s blood without actually taking the maternal blood supply into the fetus. They have a special coating on them called syncytiotrophoblast. This coating is what allows free passing of everything but red blood cells.