What does the placenta do?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The placenta is the fetus’ source of support during intrauterine life. The placenta has four primary functions in the support of fetal well-being.

  • Metabolic function: to provide nutrition and energy to the fetus
  • Endocrine function: to maintain the pregnancy, support the embryo/fetus and induce maternal metabolic adaptations.
  • Immunologic function: to protect the fetus from pathogens and prevents rejection of the fetus by the mother.
  • Transport function: to move gases, nutrients, waste products, drugs and other substances across the placenta from maternal to fetal circulation or from fetal to maternal circulation.

The placenta does many things, but its most important task is to act as the bridge between baby and Mom. It's responsible for filtering and exchanging nutrients and gases and -- in its job as an endocrine organ -- for making and secreting many hormones. The placenta also serves an immunity role, helping to pass along Mom's immune cells before the fetus can develop them by itself.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.