The placenta combines many functional activities. It serves as a barrier to protect the fetus, but serves as the primary site of physiological exchange between the conceptus and parent. It provides the substrates for fetal metabolism and disposes of the waste products. The placenta synthesizes both peptide and steroid hormones, as well as other substances that are released to the maternal as well as the fetal circulations. The placenta grows rapidly during early gestation and adapts to increasing metabolic demands of the rapidly growing fetus. The placenta has numerous functions, and most of those functions serve to optimize the uterine environment for normal conceptus growth and development, either directly via influences on the fetus, or indirectly by modifying maternal physiological functions.

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