My project dives deeper into the Reproductive system and focuses in on the finer details and roles of the placenta in pregnancy and after.

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  1. Abstract
    A deeper dive into the Reproductive system with a focus on the finer details and roles of the placenta in pregnancy and after.

    Lifeline
    The placenta and umbilical cord play a crucial part in the connection between mother and infant. The placenta is made up of tissues from both the mother and the growing fetus.
    Placenta formation starts before the first trimester is over from weeks 0-13. The process begins when the blastocyst is embedded into the uterine wall. An important part of placenta formation is spiral artery remodeling. The spiral wall is always present in a female. This term is used to describe the vessels that are spiral-shaped that supply blood to the endometrium. During spiral artery remodeling, the uterine blood vessels change to allow for great blood supply to the placenta as the placenta and fetus continue to grow. The change occurs as cytotrophoblast, cells that line the placental villi, take over space around the spiral artery and change the shape of these vessels (2017). The shape change makes the vessels larger and in turn, helps with blood flow to the placenta.
    The placenta is a miraculous organ as it is responsible for essentially tying together two different organisms. The placenta has many roles, some to include nutrient and gas exchange as well an immune defense between mother and fetus. Many nutrients are passed from mother to fetus via the placenta. The fetus has virtually no control overproducing its own nutrients to include glucose, fatty acids, electrolytes, and amino acids. All these nutrients are vital for life to form, and the placenta is the facilitator for nutrients to be passed by active and passive transport. While in utero, the fetal lungs are not in charge of gas exchange. This function is solely reliant on the umbilical cord and the placenta. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged via the placenta by passive diffusion. Oxygen is exchanged by a process called the Double Bohr Effect and carbon dioxide is exchanged via the Double Haldane Effect (Griffiths & Campbell, 2014). These processes allow for maternal oxygen and carbon dioxide to transfer from the mother to the fetus via the placenta. The placenta also plays a role in the fetus’s immune system. Pinocytosis is the process of antibodies crossing over from mother to fetus (Griffiths & Campbell, 2014). This happens as soon as the placenta is developed and picks up speed as the mother moves along farther into her pregnancy.
    Many people believe the placenta is responsible for more than physiological aspects in pregnancy. A few examples are lotus births and placenta encapsulation.
    Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord attached to the newborn until it naturally falls off. The reasoning behind this can be for many reasons, to include allowing for sufficient time for the infant to obtain all nutrients from the placenta, allowing for a spiritual bond to be formed between the infant and the placenta, and providing a more natural transition from the mother’s womb to the world for the infant. Families who chose to do this highly believe the placenta is a part of the infant, not just another organ (Norris, 2018).
    Placenta encapsulation is a detailed process of steaming, dehydrating, grinding, and placing the placenta into capsules for consumption. Although this process has become more popular in today’s time, it has been around for centuries mostly practiced by those from countries other than the United States. The consumption of the placenta is usually done by the mother. Benefits from this holistic process are said to be better milk production, increased corticotrophin-releasing hormone, decreased levels of postpartum depression, and increased release of oxytocin.

    References
    Griffiths, S. K., & Campbell, J. P. (2014, May 30). Placental structure, function and drug transfer. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/bjaed/article/15/2/84/248526.

    Hill, M.A. (2021, July 21) Embryology Placenta Development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Placenta_Development

    Marraccini, M. E., & Gorman, K. S. (2015). Exploring Placentophagy in Humans: Problems and Recommendations. Journal of midwifery & women’s health, 60(4), 371–379. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.12309

    Norris, T. (2018, November 15). What Lotus Birth and Is It Safe? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/lotus-birth#benefits.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, December 30). Human Placenta Project: How Does the Placenta Form? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/HPP/research_funding/human-placenta.

    Savannah Rodriguez

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