The umbilical cord, which joins the foetus to the placenta has three blood vessels and looks like a long rope. One of these blood vessels is called the umbilical vein. It sends blood containing nutrient material and oxygen from the placenta to the baby. The other two of these vessels are called the umbilical arteries which transport blood containing carbon dioxide and waste produced from the nutrient material from the baby to the placenta.
Due to the strong and flexible structure of the umbilical cord, it does not coil and cramp easily. It is very important that there be no problem with the delivery of blood. Moreover, the flexible structure of the cord makes it possible for the baby to move.
From the point of view of its functions, the placenta is created to act for the foetus, sometimes like a liver and stomach, and sometimes like the intestines and kidneys. Moreover, the placenta does not perform its functions according to a fixed order, but keeps the changing needs of the baby in view. For example, the food the foetus needs in its first and second months is different from the food it needs in its eighth and ninth months; but the placenta makes adjustments for this and effects a perfect balance, selecting the food that the baby can most easily digest in each period of its development.
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One of the most important functions of the placenta is to secrete the hormones (eg. oestrogen and progesterone) required by the foetus. Of these hormones, progesterone has a special effect on decreasing the contractility of the uterus in the mother's body and gives physical support to the baby. In order for the baby's development to continue, it makes possible the formation of the most comfortable environment. Moreover, it allows the development of the milk glands in the mother's breasts and, at the right time, helps in the production of milk. Besides this, it gives support by boosting the mother's metabolism, thus contributing to her health and comfort. These hormones ensure that the uterus will become a comfortable and secure place for the embryo, and their secretions in the proper way and in the appropriate amount are very important for the baby to have a healthy birth. In addition, these hormones prepare the mother's system for the birth.
He is the Living One—there is no god but Him. So pray to Him, and worship Him sincerely. Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds.
(Qur'an, 40: 65)
Together with all these functions, the placenta ensures that the baby is immune to any infections that may occur in the last three months of the pregnancy.
What we have described up to this point are only a few of the functions undertaken by the placenta during the development of the baby. And, in everything that we have described here, there is an unimaginable amount of detail. Every system depends on the functioning of many complex chemical operations.
Moreover, every new research conducted about the development of the foetus reveals a new function that the placenta performs on behalf of the baby. But in all this there is a common point. Every activity of the placenta binds the mother and the embryo to each other in a perfectly harmonious union. This union is of the greatest importance because, if even one of the balances ensured in the mother's body were to be upset, the embryo could not survive.
The fact that an organ formed from cells is aware of the needs of a living thing, determines what is needed and acts with the knowledge of how to supply the need; and the fact that this organ can produce the required material in the correct proportion, select and appropriate it from outside; in short, that such an organ can display conscious activity is not something that it can do by its own unaided efforts. For example, if a human being were required to perform the same function, he would not be able to do it. To understand what a foetus needs and when to take the measures required; to choose the appropriate material and to repel unwanted material are things that a person without medical training cannot do. (Even a person with medical training could not continually, day and night, perform this duty without making a mistake.)
But these duties that a human being cannot perform, can be effected efficiently and flawlessly by this organ we call the placenta. And the placenta of every one of the millions of human beings who have lived throughout thousands of years has demonstrated the same deep awareness and perfect performance. Indeed, the perfect structure of the placenta and its conscious activities are the result of God's creating it with all of these characteristics. To claim the opposite would be to step beyond the limits of intelligence. With the excellent design that He has created in the human body, God shows us His incomparable art, and commands us in the Qur'an to consider these truths:
He is Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between them, so worship Him and persevere in His worship. Do you know of any other worthy of His Name? Man says, "When I am dead, will I then be again raised to life?" Does not man recall that We created him before when he was not anything? (Qur'an, 19: 65-67)
In the subjects to be discussed in the following pages, there is an important point which should not be forgotten. As we have seen in the examples given so far, all the units of the human body which act according to a plan, perform their various duties in due time, know at which point to stop, do not leave their place of duty, can work in a team, make selections to meet certain needs and produce the requisite material at the right time, are all cells. As we shall see in some detail later, in the acts of these cells, which are too small to be seen by the naked eye, there is an obvious intelligence, and this intelligence does not belong to the cells. Cells composed of unconscious and lifeless atoms cannot have the capacity to think and make decisions. This supreme consciousness and intelligence belong to God. To keep this truth continually in mind is important; it is the means whereby the individual may deepen his awareness of these wondrous occurrences, and witness God's eternal power.