Henry Gray (18251861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918.
maternal blood, and give up to the latter its waste products. The blood, so purified, is carried back to the fetus by the umbilical vein. It will thus be seen that the placenta not only establishes a mechanical connection between the mother and the fetus, but subserves for the latter the purposes of nutrition, respiration, and excretion. In favor of the view that the placenta possesses certain selective powers may be mentioned the fact that glucose is more plentiful in the maternal than in the fetal blood. It is interesting to note also that the proportion of iron, and of lime and potash, in the fetus is increased during the last months of pregnancy. Further, there is evidence that the maternal leucocytes may migrate into the fetal blood, since leucocytes are much more numerous in the blood of the umbilical vein than in that of the umbilical arteries.
The placenta is usually attached near the fundus uteri, and more frequently on the posterior than on the anterior wall of the uterus. It may, however, occupy a lower position and, in rare cases, its site is close to the orificium internum uteri, which it may occlude, thus giving rise to the condition known as placenta previa.
Separation of the Placenta.After the child is born, the placenta and membranes are expelled from the uterus as the after-birth. The separation of the placenta from the uterine wall takes place through the stratum spongiosum, and necessarily causes rupture of the uterine vessels. The orifices of the torn vessels are, however, closed by the firm contraction of the uterine muscular fibers, and thus postpartum hemorrhage is controlled. The epithelial lining of the uterus is regenerated by the proliferation and extension of the epithelium which lines the persistent portions of the uterine glands in the unaltered layer of the decidua.
The expelled placenta appears as a discoid mass which weighs about 450 gm. and has a diameter of from 15 to 20 cm. Its average thickness is about 3 cm., but this diminishes rapidly toward the circumference of the disk, which is continuous with the membranes. Its uterine surface is divided by a series of fissures into Iobules or cotyledons, the fissures containing the remains of the septa which extended between the maternal and fetal portions. Most of these septa end in irregular or pointed processes; others, especially those near the edge of the placenta, pass