By Pam Hulstein, Ph.D., CNM
Who in the world actually wants to see a placenta? Me! I am always in awe of a placenta when I attend a birth.
|Pam Hulstein, CNM|
The placenta’s birth often occurs quietly while the new mom is relishing in the joy and relief of having just given birth. Most times, when given due patience and careful observation, the placenta slips out with very little coaxing.
A first glance, the placenta is a large lump of reddish-bluish tissue, usually circular shaped with slippery membranes covering one side and an umbilical cord securely attached. As a certified nurse midwife, I inspect every placenta at each birth to note its normalcy or any unusual findings.
It is at this point I typically ask the new mom/dad or any other family members present for the birth if they would like to see the marvelous placenta! Some folks are very receptive to this invitation; some are hesitant, but fewer still decline. With gloved hands, I lift the placenta out of the basin and show off the shiny fetal side and the delicately strong amnion and chorion layers. Then I turn it over and show the substantive cotyledon side of reddish firm flesh that sustained the circulation between mom’s uterus and baby.
We then marvel that this “thing” provided nutrition, oxygen and waste elimination for the baby you now hold in your arms. This incredible organ produced vital hormones during the pregnancy and provided immune protection to the growing baby. This uniquely made circulation tissue was formed very early in the pregnancy and was completely established by about week 13.
It is at this point that I verify with parents what they would like “done” with their placenta. Double bag it and dispose of it? Send it off to be dehydrated and encapsulated? Bury it in the back yard and plant a tree near it? Or maybe put it in the freezer until they decide what they want to do with this wonderful, incredibly underappreciated part of pregnancy!
Pam Hulstein is a certified nurse midwife at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center. To learn more about Promise’s midwifery team and prenatal services, visit www.promisechc.org/services/prenatal.aspx. For more tips and advice on various topics from Promise’s midwifery team and baby announcements, visit promisechcmidwives.blogspot.com.