Placental Exam

What is involved in a placental exam?

A doctor doing a placental exam
Photo © Moment/Getty Images

The placenta is always examined after the birth of your baby. This is partially to make sure that the entire placenta was expelled after your gave birth, but it can also tell you a lot about your pregnancy, including things like your health and the gestational age of the pregnancy.

The doctor or midwife will look for missing pieces, the shape, and consistency of your placenta. They will look at how the cord inserts into the placenta and whether or not there are calcifications. There are also tests that may be run on the placenta, including ones to look for diseases or infections. Talk to your practitioner about these types of questions.

The placenta will usually be born vaginally within about 30 minutes of the baby in a vaginal birth. This is known as the third stage of labor. In a cesarean birth, the placenta will be removed by the doctor before they begin to suture the uterus closed.

 See also: Twin Placentas

Placenta with Amniotic Sac

This photo is of the entire placenta including the amniotic sac. Notice that the amniotic sac is mostly still intact with the exception of the hole in which the baby was born through. You can see that there is not a lot of space to be had inside the amniotic sac. The baby who lived here weighed in at 8 pounds 9 ounces. Talk about a cramped space!

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

Maternal Side of the Placenta

The maternal side of the placenta is the side that attaches to the uterine wall. This side looks very knobby and you can see the bumpy lobes of the placenta. Your doctor or midwife will exam this side of the placenta to ensure that the placenta is complete and that no parts of the placenta are left inside your uterus. They may also check for calcifications of the placenta, which is a sign of aging.

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

Baby's Side of the Placenta

The baby's side of the placenta is smooth in comparison to the mother's side of the placenta. This is also where the umbilical cord is attached. One of the things that your doctor or midwife will look for is that the umbilical cord is attached in the center of the placenta and not to one side or actually in the membranes.

Your practitioner will also look at the umbilical cord. One thing they will look for will be the number of vessels that the umbilical cord has in it. An umbilical cord should have two arteries and a vein, called a three vessel cord.

While some people never have any desire to see the placenta, it is becoming more popular to actually look at the placenta. It is a unique organ, the only disposable organ that is ever grown. The placenta is an amazing organ that helped house and nourish your baby during your pregnancy.

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

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