Description: This is a comprehensive description of the role of the placenta in human growth and development that grew out of discussions at a conference of experts in 2009.
Purpose: The purpose is to discuss the proceedings of the conference, but present them in a way that highlights the complexities of the placenta. The authors also point out the importance of the Barker hypothesis (fetal programming) and further describe the impact that the placenta has in this process. This is a very worthwhile objective and the authors did a good job of focusing on these aspects.
Audience: The book is written for residents, physicians, and researchers interested in fetal and human development.
Features: Chapter 1 lays down the foundation of the textbook namely describing the various mechanisms that can influence placental development. It also describes the impact of placental development on human growth. The introduction does a nice job of summarizing the material. It is also the only chapter that omits the discussion section. The discussion sections that follow the remaining chapters provide some perspective for the conversations at the conference, but it some ways it detracted and distracted from the information in the chapter. Chapter 14 is an elegant description of the role corticosteroids play in placental programming. Because steroids are standard care for fetal lung maturity in preterm birth, it is important to be aware of these effects. Chapter 10 is another important topic placental insufficiency. It would have been worthwhile to mention antiphospholipid antibodies as they have been associated with intrauterine growth restriction and severe preeclampsia, and these conditions are theorized to be placentally mediated. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has renewed its practice bulletin mentioning that it is still recognized as part of the clinical criteria for antiphospholipid syndrome but would not recommend treatment.
Assessment: This is comprehensive reference highlighting placental growth and its role in fetal and human development. The placenta is an often overlooked and misunderstood organ and the authors do an admirable job of discussing the complex mechanisms involved in its regulation. The book is aesthetically pleasing, though some chapters could be combined. The discussion section at the end of every chapter is designed to show the debate that occurred at the conference, but I found it distracting. It made me feel like I was reading a journal manuscript and less like a valuable reference book. It also dates the material, which may hinder the book's long term appeal. However, the material itself is very well presented.