Although it’s called the “afterbirth,” the placenta should not be categorized as an “afterthought” regarding pregnancy. Its significance dates back almost to the beginning of time. Up until the 18th and 19th century, it was thought that the mother and fetus shared the same circulatory system but now we know that they are actually separate.
Historically, many cultures from around the world including Native Americans traditionally buried the placenta to promote peace, fertility and a connection between the baby and its ancestral land. Moving into the 20th and 21st century, the placenta has taken center stage because of its alleged nutritional value. It has been frozen, chopped, mixed in blenders and eaten. However, were you aware that the placenta has been used in forensics when there’s a bad outcome after the birth of a newborn? Or that the diagnosis of a placenta might help save a baby’s life?
Let’s assume a pregnant mother has not had prenatal care and goes into labor. Or, she’s had prenatal care but goes into labor early. Neither of these patients has received a Group B Strep culture when it was supposed to be done at 36 weeks. Both women have a “normal” labor and did not develop a fever yet after their babies are born, the placentas are sent to pathology and the findings are “chorioamnionitis” which indicates an infection of the membranes that held the bag of waters (aka amniotic fluid). Although the mothers were not sick, the babies should receive antibiotics as a precaution because the placenta was harboring an infection. Most likely, these mothers had Group B Strep that was not diagnosed. Although most pregnant women are not aware that the baby’s placenta is sent to pathology, they should be. Ideally, before you are discharged from the hospital, you should know the result of every lab test that was done including your baby’s placenta pathology report. Not only could this information save your life, but the life of your baby as well.
Do you know how to recognize a red flag that could potentially harm your pregnancy? If not, then pick up a copy of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.