Pregnant moms, do you know what a placenta is? Well, the Khan Academy helps you find out.

For those of you who are unaware of the Khan Academy, it is a nonprofit organization that produces videos for self-learning and does such a great job, that it gained the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who provides it with support. But let’s get back to the placenta.

The placenta is an organ that is found not only in humans, but in all female mammals. It allows the exchange of food and oxygen to occur between the mother and the unborn child. Most pregnant women become aware of their placenta either by seeing it on an ultrasound, or experiencing bleeding that it could potentially cause.  Bleeding might occur during early pregnancy because either the fetus is settling into the uterine lining or the placenta is either very low or actually covering the opening to the uterus (aka placenta previa).  The first clue that a woman might have a placenta previa is if she experiences bleeding after having sex. An ultrasound will reveal a “low lying” or “placenta previa” which usually resolves as the baby begins to grow and the placenta moves away from the uterine opening (aka cervix). If you’ve been told that you have a low-lying or placenta previa, you need to have a repeat ultrasound in 4 weeks to make sure the placenta has “migrated” or moved away from the cervix.

If the placenta has not moved, this previa may be either partial (part of the placenta is covering the cervix) or complete (the entire placenta is covering the cervix). A complex placenta previa means you must be watched very closely because of potential bleeding problems and will need a c. section because the baby will not be able to pass through the birth canal because the placenta is in the way.

Other problems involving the placenta include: a placenta abruption (means the placenta has separated from the baby too soon) or a retained placenta (meaning the baby has been delivered but the placenta is “stuck” on the inside). Any problem involving the placenta can be treated once the problem has been identified.

For more information regarding the placenta and other issues, please 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 mom who knows what to do.