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placenta[plah-sen´tah] (pl. placentas, placen´tae) (L.)
In anatomic nomenclature the placenta consists of a uterine and a fetal portion. The chorion, the superficial or fetal portion, is surfaced by a smooth, shining membrane continuous with the sheath of the umbilical cord (amnion). The deep, or uterine, portion is divided by deep sulci into lobes of irregular outline and extent (the cotyledons). Over the maternal surface of the placenta is stretched a delicate, transparent membrane of fetal origin. Around the periphery of the placenta is a large vein (the marginal sinus), which returns a part of the maternal blood from the organ.
The major function of the placenta is to allow diffusion of nutrients from the mother's blood into the fetus's blood and diffusion of waste products from the fetus back to the mother. This two-way exchange takes place across the placental membrane, which is semipermeable; that is, it acts as a selective filter, allowing some materials to pass through and holding back others.
In the early months of pregnancy the placenta acts as a nutrient storehouse and helps to process some of the food substances that nourish the fetus. Later, as the fetus grows and develops, these metabolic functions of the placenta are gradually taken on by the fetal liver.
The placenta secretes both estrogens and progesterone. After birth of the infant the placenta is cast off from the uterus and expelled via the birth canal.
With the onset of any contractions and cervical dilation, or when the cervix begins to dilate at the onset of labor and the upper and lower uterine segments differentiate, the placenta is stretched and pulled from the uterine wall, producing bleeding. The bleeding usually is abrupt and painless and may stop on its own. However, if it continues it can be life-threatening for the mother since it is maternal blood that is being lost. The life of the fetus is in jeopardy because of anoxia resulting from separation of the placenta from its blood supply.
Diagnosis can be established by ultrasonography or radiologic placentography. Once diagnosis is made, treatment will depend on the gestational age of the fetus and the percentage of placenta covering the cervical os. Cesarean delivery is recommended if 30 per cent or more of the opening is obstructed by the placenta. If there is minimal bleeding that stops on its own, the fetus is not in distress, and if the gestational age is such that continuing the pregnancy is necessary for delivery of a viable fetus, the pregnancy may be continued under careful monitoring in the hospital, or at home if the mother is able to stay in bed. However, if the life of the mother or fetus is threatened by continued and excessive bleeding, delivery is indicated.
Vaginal examinations are carried out in an operating room so that if hemorrhage does occur as a result of manipulation of the uterus, a cesarean section can be done immediately to remove the placenta, stop the bleeding, and deliver the child safely.
Postpartal hemorrhage and infection are more likely in women who have had placenta previa. Placement of the placenta in the lower segment predisposes to more bleeding because that portion of the uterus does not contract as forcefully as the upper segment. Additionally, the misplaced placenta has enlarged its bed to compensate for its poor location, so that there is a larger denuded area after delivery of the placenta. The same denuded area is also more susceptible to infection because it is located near the cervical opening where infectious organisms may enter.
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy or labor is frightening for the mother. She will need reassurance and frequent explanations of what is happening to her throughout the period of monitoring and delivery. Some emotional stress can be alleviated by encouraging the mother to be aware of fetal movements and allowing her to listen to normal fetal heart sounds.
placenta(pla-sent'a ) (-sent'e?) plural.placentaeplural.placentas [L. placenta, flat cake]
The placenta consists of a fetal portion, the chorion frondosum, bearing many chorionic villi that interlock with the decidua basalis of the uterus, which constitutes the maternal portion. The chorionic villi lie in spaces in the uterine endometrium, where they are bathed in maternal blood and lymph. Groups of villi are separated by placental septa forming about 20 distinct lobules called cotyledons.
Attached to the margin of the placenta is a membrane that encloses the embryo. It is a composite of several structures (decidua parietalis, decidua capsularis, chorion laeve, and amnion). At the center of the concave side is attached the umbilical cord through which the umbilical vessels (two arteries and one vein) pass to the fetus. The cord is approx. 50 cm (20 in.) long at full term.
The mature placenta is 15 to 18 cm (6 to 7 in.) in diameter and weighs about 450 gm (approx. 1 lb). When expelled following parturition, it is known as the afterbirth.
Maternal blood enters the intervillous spaces of the placenta through spiral arteries, branches of the uterine arteries. It bathes the chorionic villi and flows peripherally to the marginal sinus, which leads to uterine veins. Food molecules, oxygen, and antibodies pass into fetal blood of the villi; metabolic waste products pass from fetal blood into the mother's blood. Normally, there is no admixture of fetal and maternal blood. The placenta is also an endocrine organ. It produces chorionic gonadotropins, the presence of which in urine is the basis of one type of pregnancy test. Estrogen and progesterone are also secreted by the placenta.
abruption of placentaAbruptio placentae.
circumvallate placentaPlacenta circumvallata.
placenta cretaPlacenta accreta.
dimidiate placentaBilobate placenta.
placenta previaAbbreviation: PP
The condition is more common in multigravidas than primigravidas, and occurs in about 1 in every 200 pregnancies. Slight hemorrhage, recurrent with greater severity, appears in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy. Gradual anemia, pallor, rapid weak pulse, air hunger, and low blood pressure occur.
Painless bleeding during the last 3 months and a placenta found in the lower portion of the uterus are diagnostic.
The blood supply before and during delivery should be conserved. Postpartum hemorrhage should be prevented or controlled. Anemia should be treated before and after labor. Prevention of sepsis is necessary.
The prognosis for the mother is good with control of hemorrhage and prevention of sepsis. Prognosis for the fetus depends on gestational age and the amount of blood lost, but continuous monitoring and rapid intervention help to prevent neonatal death.
In a calm environment, the patient is told what is happening; then the procedure of vaginal ultrasound is explained. The patient is told that if the ultrasound examination reveals a placenta previa, sterile vaginal examination will be delayed if possible until after 34 weeks' (preferably 36 weeks') gestation (to enhance the chances for fetal survival) and then will be carried out only as a “double-setup” procedure, with all preparations needed for immediate vaginal or cesarean delivery. (If, however, the ultrasound examination reveals a normally implanted placenta, a sterile vaginal speculum examination is performed to rule out local bleeding causes, and a laboratory study is ordered to rule out coagulation problems.)
The patient is maintained on absolute bedrest and under close supervision (usually in the hospital) to extend the period of gestation until 36 weeks, when fetal lung maturity is likely (or can be stimulated to mature 48 hr before delivery). Intravenous access is established using a large-bore catheter, and continuous external electrode fetal monitoring is initiated. Maternal vital signs are closely monitored, and the amount of vaginal bleeding is assessed. The laboratory types and cross-matches blood for emergency use; the number of units is based on the assessment of the particular patient's possible requirements. The patient's hematocrit level is kept at 30% or greater. The patient is prepared physically and emotionally for cesarean delivery; vaginal delivery may be attempted, but only if the previa is marginal, bleeding is minimal, and labor is rapidly progressing.
After delivery, the patient is monitored closely for continued bleeding, which may occur from the large vascular channels in the lower uterine segment, even if the fundus is firmly contracted. Prophylactic antibiotic therapy may be prescribed because of the patient's propensity for infection. Oxytocic drugs are given to control bleeding; packed cells or whole blood also are given. The obstetrical surgery team remains available, in case further intervention is required. The patient's hemodynamic status is monitored continuously, to provide blood and fluid replacement needed to prevent and treat hypovolemia while avoiding hypervolemia.
Although maternal mortality remains a concern, the patient and her family should be assured that this is unlikely but not impossible in most large treatment centers because of the conservative regimen that is followed. A pediatric team is present at delivery to assess and treat neonatal hypoxia, anemia, blood loss, and shock. In the event of fetal distress or death, the family is informed that these are related to detachment of a significant portion of the placenta or to maternal hypovolemic shock, or both. All parents are provided opportunities to be with and touch their (usually premature) neonate in the critical care nursery. In cases of fetal demise, the infant is carefully wrapped and the parents encouraged to hold their baby, and to examine it as they desire. Infant photographs may be taken to provide memories for the family. The patient and family require the health care providers' empathetic concern and support. A social service consultation is set up if financial or home and family care concerns require agency referrals; spiritual counseling is supplied according to the patient's wishes. Reducing maternal anxiety helps reduce uterine irritability, so a mental health practitioner should be consulted if the patient does not respond to nursing interventions (e.g., relaxation techniques, guided imagery) or if the patient's previous coping skills are known to be ineffective.
placenta previa partialis
zonary placentaAnnular placenta.
placentaThe part of the early developing EMBRYO, that differentiates to form an organ attached to the lining of the womb and provides a functional linkage between the blood supplies of the mother and the fetus. This allows for the passage of oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus. The placenta is connected to the fetus by the UMBILICAL CORD and is discharged from the womb after the birth of the baby. Also known as afterbirth.
- (in animals) the structure formed from the tissues of embryo and mother at the point of attachment of the embryo to the mother, through which the embryo is nourished. In placental mammals the embryonic blood supply may be from the ALLANTOIS (allantoic placenta) or the yolk sac (yolk sac placenta). Small molecules of oxygen and food materials pass to the embryo through the placenta, and urea and CO2 pass out from the embryo. The placenta itself produces the hormones OESTROGEN, PROGESTERONE and GONADOTROPHIC HORMONE. At birth the foetus is ejected from the uterus first, the umbilical cord broken and the placentalafterbirth is discharged last, except in abnormal circumstances. See Fig. 253 .
- (in plants) a part of the wall of the ovary on which OVULES are borne.