The Importance of Eating Well for The Placenta
What a miracle pregnancy is. Did you know that when you get pregnant, you are not only growing a new baby, you are also growing a whole new organ called the Placenta. So, as you struggle with nausea, sore boobs, fatigue and food cravings, your body is tirelessly working in the background to grow your baby and this vital lifeline between you both. That is why it is important to eat healthily and feed this vital organ all it needs to support your pregnancy going forward.
What is the Placenta ?
The Placenta starts growing not long after fertilization, when the blastocyst implants in the uterine wall. It is composed of fetal and maternal tissue. At this point, it secretes a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and it is the presence of this hormone that indicates if you are pregnant or not when you get tested.
Like a tree, the Placenta grows roots deep into the lining of the womb, accessing nourishing supplies of blood and nutrients to feed the growing baby. If the lining is poor, the placenta cannot grow a good root system as it is unable to get the nutrients it needs to grow itself and sustain the pregnancy going forward. This can cause issues to arise during the pregnancy. This is why it is a good idea to prepare and look after your body, eating healthy and nutritious foods for a couple of months before you get pregnant. This will lay down the path for the healthy outcome of your pregnancy and helps you avoid complications later on.
What does the Placenta do ?
From around Week 10 the Placenta is fully formed and takes over the role of feeding and nourishing your baby. It connects to your baby via the umbilical cord and acts as the baby’s lungs, taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide. It also supplies the baby with nutrients and antibodies and removes waste.
Around this 10/12 week mark, the Placenta also takes over the production of Progesterone and if you have morning sickness, it will usually cease when this happens. If your morning sickness continues, it is because you have higher concentrations of a protein called GDF15 but this is a good sign that the Placenta is doing its job.
How to look after your Placenta
In the first couple of months of pregnancy, the baby will draw it’s nutrients from your body so it’s important that you are in tip top shape. Some important nutrients are;
- Folate this vital supplement protects against neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and is especially important to take in the first trimester. It can be found in wholemeal bread and fortified cereals but you’ll get your RDA with a supplement as well.
- Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli and kale.
- Choline – this is essential for production of cell membranes and cell division and can be found in foods including bananas, fish, eggs, nuts, pulses, soya beans and wholegrains
- DHA Omega 3 – DHA Omega 3 is a crucial component of the brain, eyes and nerve cells and can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs and oily fish. Taking a supplement will ensure you build up a ready supply for when your baby reaches week 28 and goes through the rapid development phase.
- Vitamin D – helps your baby’s bones and teeth grow. It also helps your body to absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, like salmon, milk and cereals that have vitamin D added to it
- B vitamins – these help the body convert food into energy and are important in early pregnancy because they play a part in the formation of new cells. They can be found in a variety of foods including wholemeal bread and cereals, cheese, eggs, fish and lean meats.
- Iodine – assists in the production of the thyroid hormones aiding brain development. It helps to maintain cells and maintains a healthy metabolic rate. Fish, shellfish and edible seaweed contains the most. Note: most seafoods should be avoided during pregnancy, so it is recommended you take a supplement to get your RDA. Most good multivitamin and mineral supplements for pregnancy will include this.
- Zinc – is vital for tissue growth and repair, the immune system and the processing of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Found in beef, nuts wholemeal bread, fish, meat and dairy products
Common Placenta issues
Sometimes issues can arise with the Placenta during pregnancy. If you have any of these issues, your doctor will monitor it closely. Issues that may arise are;
This is when the placenta locates itself at the bottom of the womb, close to the cervical opening. When this happens, you may have to have a C-section.
This is when the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus during pregnancy or birth and can be a serious situation. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding and back or abdominal pain.
When the Placenta is embedded too deeply into the uterine wall it is called Placenta Accreta.
When part of the placenta is still inside the womb after childbirth, it is known as Retained Placenta. You may need a procedure to be performed if the Placenta isn’t completely expelled naturally.
If the Placenta cannot supply adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, this is known as Placental Insufficiency and will result in complications arising in the pregnancy. Your doctor will monitor this condition throughout pregnancy.