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Why You Should Give Your Placenta Some Props

babyAh, the placenta. 

That long-suffering, often misunderstood, and shockingly meaty pregnancy component that has garnered opinions as of late on its merits as a dinner dish.

But more than gaining attention for the debate of its merits via consumption (something I can not personally attest to, but know many people who have), I am glad to see the placenta getting recognizing for something of import in the medical world:

Its role in the health and development of your newborn.

A new study has found that the placenta, once thought to be completely sterile, actually is the source of a quite vibrant microscopic life teeming with bacteria. And that bacteria may just play a role in laying the basis of the bacterial make-up of your baby’s digestive system.

While research is emerging about the importance of the entire micro-world that is going on inside and outside of us at all times, with theories on the brain-gut connection, and the importance of supporting the healthy bacteria in our guts, not a lot of research has been focused on the importance of that bacterial symbiosis at the infant level.

Scientists once suspected that newborns developed their bacterial colony only at birth, in passing through the vaginal birth canal, but after taking a closer look at the types of bacteria in a baby’s digestive tract versus a mother’s vaginal, they discovered that they weren’t really similar. It wasn’t until they exhausted all other possible sources that they got to the placenta — and were surprised to find a match.

So what does this information mean?

Well, for one, it’s good news for mothers who have C-sections, as they no longer have to worry if their babies’ digestive tracts will be lacking that essential bacterial background, but it also points to the fact that the placenta is more than just a debate over whether to eat or not to eat. It also raises questions about the delicate nature of the bacterial basis for both mother and baby and will force doctors and scientists to consider the effects of antibiotics given to women during their pregnancies.

Of the emerging fascination with the placenta, Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, commented, “We are just starting to catch a glimmer of this amazing organ that defines placental mammalian biology.”

Because, apparently, the placenta is an organ that goes through pregnancy — and beyond.

 

Image courtesy of Flicker

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