A healthy placenta is the single most important factor in producing a healthy baby. A pregnancy cannot proceed without a healthy placenta. The placenta is dedicated to the survival of the foetus. Even when exposed to a poor maternal environment, for example when the mother is malnourished, diseased, smokes or takes cocaine, the placenta can often compensate by becoming more efficient. Unfortunately, there are limits to the placenta’s ability to cope with external stresses. Eventually, if multiple or severe enough, these stresses can lead to placental damage, fetal damage and even intrauterine demise and pregnancy loss. When the placenta does not work as well as it should, the baby can get less oxygen and nutrients from the mother. As a result, the baby may:
• Not grow as well
• Show signs of foetal stress
• Have a harder time during labor.
The placenta has three functions. It is the gate between mother and baby, transferring food from the mother and waste from the baby; it makes hormones that signal to the mother what the baby needs; and it protects the baby from the mother’s immune system, which could attack the baby because it is “foreign” to the mother’s body because half of its genes come from the father. The development of the placenta begins when the embryo implants into the lining of the mother’s womb, on the eighth day after conception. The organ becomes fully functional in the tenth week of pregnancy. At birth its surface is oval in shape. It seems that the tissue along the length of the surface has different functions to tissue along the breadth.
Poor prenatal nutrition will affect the placenta. You are what you eat and so is the baby. Babies do not well on potato chips and sodas all day. There can be real consequences if moms do not take good nutritional care of their bodies and babies. Low levels of Vitamin D are now being connected to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes in pregnant women, as well as schizophrenia, autism, mental retardation and seizures in babies. Pregnant women should make sure to consume cod liver oil, fresh dark greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and wholesome grains all paired with exercise.
Belkacemi, L., Nelson, D. M., Desai, M., Ross, M. G. (2010). Maternal Undernutrition Influences Placental-Fetal Development. Biology of Reproduction. Vol. 83, No. 3 325-331. http://www.biolreprod.org/content/83/3/325.abstract