placentaIt has been found that there are a number of benefits of eating one’s placenta, otherwise known as placentophagy. These include warding off postpartum depression (PPD), replacing lost nutrients, increasing energy, replacing hormones, aiding the onset of lactation, and reducing postpartum blood loss by stimulating the uterus to contract back to its original size. There are other ways to prevent uterine blood loss (like breastfeeding and a shot of pitocin in your leg) and there are other ways to replenish the store of nutrients, like iron, lost in blood (nettle tea, a nice big steak); however, it is my opinion that if placentophagy provides benefits (and the yuck factor isn’t applicable to you), then why not try it?

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The placenta plays a key role in providing nutrition to the fetus so it isn’t a far stretch to consider the nutritional value available to the mother. It is common for other mammals to eat their placenta. Whether this is to ward off predators or to benefit from the nutrients, scientists aren’t sure, but I don’t think it’s hard to understand how placenta nutrients might benefit the health of the new mother.  Medical cures are often derived from nature. Isn’t it a miraculous gift that mothers can actually make their own new-mother medicine? Indeed, Chinese Medicine has recognized the placenta as a proponent of healing for centuries.

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Because the placenta contains estrogen and progesterone, some women believe that the sudden withdrawal of those hormones after the delivery is what causes the baby blues, and that ingesting the afterbirth restores hormone levels [Source]. My personal theory, not at all based on science by the way, is this. The placenta is the world’s only disposable organ. It links the blood supply of the embryo to the blood supply of the mother, allowing the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and waste products. It also produces hormones that maintain and regulate pregnancy [Source]. It is grown for the exclusive purpose of supporting pregnancy. Pregnancy results in childbirth, childbirth results in motherhood, motherhood results in the most life-altering event on Earth. Life altering events can often cause a great deal of stress. The specific kind of stress childbirth and motherhood result in is called the “baby blues” or in more serious cases, postpartum depression. Since the placenta and PPD are so intimately connected, through the hormones involved in the “growth” of both a physical object and an emotional state, I hypothesize that eating the placenta soon after birth helps restore the hormones lost during childbirth and thus decreases and/or prevents the sad feelings accompanying those early days.

Picture this. You are living in a time before iron supplements. It is a time when the best sources of iron are found in organ meat, a time when you don’t have the luxury of saying “yuck, organ meat.” You have just given birth. Your husband is out hunting and no one knows when he will be back. All there is to eat is bread. You have lost a lot of blood and you are very hungry. Thank goodness for your placenta. Doesn’t it make sense that nature would supply a new mother with a certain form of replenishing nourishment in case of uncertain times?

Most of us are familiar with the fact that postpartum depression can be diagnosed within the first year after a child is born, so wouldn’t it also make sense to preserve some of the placenta to keep on hand for the possible difficulties during the first year? Some women keep their placenta capsules in the freezer with plans to use them during the emotional ups and downs of menopause.

I can hear you protesting. “But the purpose of the placenta is to help grow the baby!” Yes, but if it’s sole purpose was to grow the baby why wouldn’t nature leave the placenta inside us, like the rest of our reproductive organs?

I’m just saying.

I knew of a woman who dried and encapsulated her placenta and not only ate some of it herself postpartum, but fed it to her children as they grew up whenever they fell ill. When a child got sick she fed that child a capsule of its own placenta, and supposedly the children got better faster. One also can make placenta butter and use it for a child’s skin problems, like eczema.

Both of my placentas are in my freezer. Originally I liked the idea of drying and encapsulating them but until the writing of this post I never got around to reading up on how to do it. And  if you haven’t figured it out within a couple days postpartum you’re out of luck. Additionally, it isn’t recommended to use the placenta for medical or nutritive purposes once it’s been frozen (especially not when it’s been in a freezer for 2 1/2 and 5 years!). One day I plan to plant a tree with them. When and where is still a mystery. Maybe once they’re defrosted I will even do some placenta art if they are still viable.

If you are interested in encapsulating your placenta here’s how you can do it. For another method that includes cooking the placenta with special spices, check out this post. Warning: Some people may consider the photos in these posts graphic (i.e., if the idea of putting your placenta in the blender grosses you out you might want to pass).

Disclaimer: Consumption of uncooked human placenta carries risks associated with other human blood products, primarily risk of hepatitis B,C and HIV infection.This risk also applies to the baby. However, eating one’s own placenta does not carry those risks. If you are invited to eat someone else’s placenta – be responsible.

To read some personal stories from my Mental Health and Breastfeeding series, go here to read Ruth’s story, here to read Arwyn’s story and here to read Jennifer’s story.

Would you consider encapsulating and eating your placenta? Did you save yours for any other purpose? I’d love to hear your story.

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12 Responses to “An Argument For Eating Your Placenta”

  1. #1 CaroLyn Says:

    December 7, 2009 at 3:17 pm
  2. #2 TheFeministBreeder Says:
    December 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm
  3. #3 Amber Says:

    December 7, 2009 at 5:17 pm
  4. #4 Pure Mothers Says:

    December 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm
  5. #5 Melodie Says:

    December 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm
  6. #6 Rosemary Says:

    December 8, 2009 at 1:57 am
  7. #7 Kim Says:

    December 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm
  8. #8 Catherine Says:

    December 8, 2009 at 11:00 pm
  9. #9 Sabrina Says:

    January 18, 2010 at 8:10 pm
  10. #10 Renee Says:

    March 29, 2010 at 11:24 am
  11. #11 Lyndell @ Placenta Encapsulation San Diego Says:

    March 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm
  12. #12 kevin Says:

    April 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm

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