As a field of study, genomic imprinting has grown rapidly in the last 20 years, with a growing figure of around 100 imprinted genes known in the mouse and approximately 50 in the human. The imprinted expression of genes may be transient and highly tissue-specific, and there are potentially hundreds of other, as yet undiscovered, imprinted transcripts. The placenta is notable amongst mammalian organs for its high and prolific expression of imprinted genes. This review discusses the development of the human placenta and focuses on the function of imprinting in this organ. Imprinting is potentially a mechanism to balance parental resource allocation and it plays an important role in growth. The placenta, as the interface between mother and fetus, is central to prenatal growth control. The expression of genes subject to parental allelic expression bias has, over the years, been shown to be essential for the normal development and physiology of the placenta. In this review we also discuss the significance of genes that lack conservation of imprinting between mice and humans, genes whose imprinted expression is often placental-specific. Finally, we illustrate the importance of imprinting in the postnatal human in terms of several human imprinting disorders, with consideration of the brain as a key organ for imprinted gene expression after birth.