The placenta plays a crucial role during pregnancy, and it is the major organ that connects the mother and the baby. Quite magically, it is an organ that develops inside your uterus during pregnancy. It provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and removes waste products from your baby’s blood. But it turns out that placental function can illuminate future diseases in the baby.
A new study published in the journal Diabetes found that there is a direct association between placental function in pregnant women and future metabolic disorders in children and adults. According to the study, it could lead to earlier intervention and diagnosis of disease.
Placenta’s Role in the Future Health of the Child
Researchers Thomas Jansson, Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus said, “We’ve known for some time that many major diseases in adults like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at least partly caused by problems during foetal life.”
She further elaborated that half of all Type-2 diabetes in young adults is caused by “exposure to the intrauterine (inside the uterus) environment in pregnant women with obesity and/or gestational diabetes.”
Preliminary studies have also shown that hypertension during pregnancy can lead to a decreased blood flow to the placenta. This disrupts the normal flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby. This may lead to problems such as low birth weight, premature birth and slow growth.
Healthy Intrauterine Environment Is Required
For the study, the team analyzed data of 1,410 healthy pregnant women between 2010 and 2014. The children are now 4-6 years old. The researchers concluded that a healthy intrauterine environment is largely determined by the placenta. After all, the organ nourishes the fetus and protects it against the immune system of the mother. Certain changes like inflammation and insulin signaling in the placenta can set the stage for later disease.
The study revealed that the placental IGF-1 receptor protein is associated with serum triglycerides in children. This could lead to obesity or diabetes later in children as well as adults. Other proteins in the placenta were linked to augmented fat tissue on the arms and thighs of the children.
What Affects Placental Health?
There are several factors that can affect the health of the placenta during pregnancy, including:
- Studies suggest that older women are at a higher risk of placental problems
- Your baby is surrounded by an amniotic sac (fluid-filled membrane). If that sac breaks before labor, the risk of some placental problems rise
- High blood pressure is a probable cause
- Being pregnant with more than one baby at once
- If the pregnant woman suffers from the blood-clotting disorder, then it could be a problem
- Someone who has had placental problems during a previous pregnancy
- Substance use can contribute to the problem
- Trauma to your abdomen can increase the risk of placenta detaching itself from the uterus