The placenta has numerous functions that serve to optimize the uterine environment for conceptus growth and development. The placenta is the primary site of physiological exchange between the conceptus and parent. Exchanges include transfer of oxygen and nutrients or other substrates from the maternal blood to the conceptus, as well as transfer of carbon dioxide, and other waste products from the fetus to the parent. The placenta acts as an endocrine, autocrine, and paracrine organ. It synthesizes a large variety of hormones and other substances that are released to the maternal as well as fetal circulations. It protects the conceptus from the maternal system. The objective of this article is to summarize the major functions of the placenta and some of the mechanisms involved in performing those functions.

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