Passing The Placenta
The placenta is an organ shaped much like a pancake that is attached to the inside of a pregnant woman's uterus. The placenta is also attached to the fetus via the umbilical cord. A placenta has the ability to produce hormones that are needed in pregnancy, such as progesterone, estrogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
The placenta acts as a kind of go-between for mother and baby. The fetus' tiny blood vessels carry its blood to the placenta which contains the mother's blood. Maternal nutrients as well as oxygen are given over to the fetal blood while the waste products of the fetus are transferred from its blood to the mother's blood, yet the blood supplies of the two, fetus and mother, never mix.
During the afterbirth, the uterus expels the placenta, since its job is now over. Sometimes, however, there are complications, such as placenta previa, in which the placenta is attached too close to or covering the cervix. Gravity and the growing fetus exert pressure on the cervix and can cause bleeding during pregnancy. This state of affairs can become a medical emergency and requires careful monitoring.
Childbirth consists of three stages. The third stage occurs after the baby has been born. This is the shortest stage in childbirth and the easiest. During this time, the placenta is delivered. This takes somewhere between 5 minutes to half an hour.
After the baby is born, your midwife or doctor waits for uterine contractions to begin once again. This signals your health care provider that the placenta is in the process of separating from the walls of your uterus and is ready to be expelled. Often, your health care provider will apply a bit of firm abdominal massage to encourage the contractions. Sometimes the umbilical cord will be given a gentle pull. In a short time, you will feel the placenta as it is expelled. In general, this is painless, as the placenta is very small compared to the baby that preceded its exit. Your vaginal canal has already stretched to a much wider size during the birth of your baby and you will find that you barely feel the placenta's exit.
After delivering the placenta, you may experience shivering or shaking. This is a common occurrence and should cause no alarm. Many women like to pack brand new, clean white tube socks in their birthing bag, to warm feet that become suddenly cold after the delivery. Ask your birthing partner or a nurse to help you put your socks on. You can ask to be covered with extra blankets, too.
Now that you have gone through all the childbirth stages, you will undergo monitoring for the next three hours or so, to check that the uterus contracts as it should and that your bleeding is not more than is expected.