Many, many people have asked me if I plan to eat my placenta. If you’re all like, WHAAAAAAAT?!’, please, let me explain before you judge. Placentophagy (the act of eating your placenta) is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that has been done in China for thousands of years. As the Husband is a TCM physician, we’ve gotten the placenta question a lot.
Those who support the practice claim there are many, many benefits — ingesting your placenta is supposed to help stop bleeding; increase breast milk supply; boost iron, Vitamin B, and other vitamin stores in the momma; reduce the risk of post-partum depression; and stabilize mood. I’ve personally spoken to many women and midwives who were thrilled with the impact that placentophagy had on their health. One midwife even told me of a women who was hemorrhaging after birth — she asked for her placenta, took a huge raw bite out of it, and the bleeding stopped!
Another argument that I’ve heard for placentophagy is the fact that most mammals eat their placentas. However, this argument has never really rang true to me — I’ve always thought that animals probably eat their placenta to help ward off potential predators. Or they really need a snack and don’t have access to a refrigerator. Also, dogs eat their own poop.
Now, there are very few Western scientific studies that either prove or disprove the benefits of placentophagy. There are no large, well-controlled studies to determine if there is a benefit or under what circumstances benefits occur (i.e. dosage, frequency). So the evidence’ for eating your placenta is largely anecdotal and historical.
Does that mean I’m not going to do it? Oh no. I am definitely ingesting my placenta. Why? Well, I feel like the potential benefits (far and vast) far outweigh the drawbacks (mainly the ick’ factor and cost; if the placenta is prepared in a healthy way, there are no health risks to consuming in). Basically — why not? In my eyes, if something that’s entirely natural and safe might be able to prevent post-partum depression, help me sleep more soundly, bounce back more quickly, and produce more breast milk, why not give it a shot?
So how does this work, exactly? Am I going to haul my placenta home from the hospital and slap it on the grill? Heck, no. First of all, I definitely get’ the ick factor… but not because it’s my placenta. I’m more grossed out by the fact that technically meat, and I’m a vegetarian. Even if it’s MY meat (well, an organ), it’s still meat. I do find it really funny that the people in my life who are the most FREAKED OUT at the thought of me eating my placenta are omnivores who eat animal flesh on a daily basis — there isn’t a huge difference!
A less-icky way to do it is placenta encapsulation. Basically, the placenta is brought home from the hospital or birthing center, dried in a food dehydrator, crushed, and packaged into pills. You may get 250 pills or more out of your placenta.
While you can certainly encapsulate your own placenta, the idea of this totally 1) freaks me out and 2) stresses me out. I think the Husband and I will be far too busy with the baby to worry about packaging my placenta into a bunch of pills. So instead, I opted to hire a placenta encapsulation specialist’ who will come to my house and do it for me. I’ll call her when I go into labor to give her a heads up, and after birth, we’ll place the placenta in a plastic bag and then in a (new and never to be used again) cooler filled with ice. The Husband or my mother will bring it to our house, and our placenta lady will meet with them to do round 1 of preparations, which takes about an hour. She’ll come back two days later to do another hour of work and finish up. In total, the service costs $150 — this was by far the best price that I found (it was a special); most rates were $250 $325.
Oh, and HOW do you get your placenta out of the hospital? That is a very interesting topic, indeed. You would think that you could just walk out with your placenta (hello, it came from MY body!), but at my hospital, you have to have your doctor sign a medical release form so you can take it with you. Fortunately, my doctor is pretty cool and doesn’t mind signing. Many hospitals consider placentas to be bio-hazardous waste and won’t release it to the patient, which I find ridiculous.
So… not quite sure how to conclude this post, but that’s the story of my placenta plans. Sure, it’s a little different (and I am 100% sure that most of America would think it’s too weird for words), but like I said — if it could possibly help me and my baby, why not just give it a shot?
Ali 1 of 6She said, "I had the same thoughts about ingesting my placenta. The potential benefits outweigh the risks, basically because there are no risks! Ive only had one baby (18 months now) so I can't compare my experience to any previous births, but I will say that I never struggled with my milk supply, I had a fabulous recovery, and hardly bled. Don't know if that's luck or because I took my placenta pills. I plan on doing it for any future births. Also, I still have quite a few and take them on days I feel especially fatigued."
Sarena 2 of 6She said, "I never thought to do this when I had my kids, but I would think differently now I think. I have always been incredibly interested in information about placentas. I find it amazing your body forms an organ specifically to fuel a baby that you are making inside of you. Things weren't so great when I delivered my first baby, but I asked to see my placenta after my second. I had an extreme interest in seeing what it was all about. I'm glad you shared this. I know a lot of people will be weirded out by it, but I think it's important to understand these types of things."
Katie 3 of 6She said, "I have never even heard of this, so yes, my instant reaction was 'gross - I would never even consider it!' But to be fair, I also felt that way about breast-feeding and cloth diapering, and I'm now totally on board with both of those plans (I'm not even pregnant yet either!). I'm interested in hearing how this goes for you, and learning more. Who knows... maybe I will just end up doing this after all!"
Kara 4 of 6She said, "Jesus, eating your own placenta is f**king strange. I'm just going to bury it out in the yard under my favorite tree like a normal person."
Heather 5 of 6She said, "I did placenta encapsulation and I feel like it really helped. Now that my pills are gone (they lasted around three months), I wish I had more! Mine was slightly different in that my person took my placenta and did everything at her house and brought the finished product to me a few days later. She also included a broth that she simmered my placenta in (which apparently tastes like lemongrass) and a tincture, in which there is a small piece of my placenta. A few drops are supposed to help me during stressful or emotional times like weaning or menopause, and can also be given to my baby when she is teething or having growing pains."
Jackie 6 of 6She said, "As a medical anthropologist, it does make sense that some cultures have taboos against eating placenta. For the most part, we have a taboo against *anything* that comes out of our bodies blood, poop, pee, puss, boogers, etc. (with the exception being babies!). There is some advantages to this, if you think of all the diseases that are blood-borne or fecal matter-borne. By avoiding stuff that comes out of our bodies, we help to preserve ourselves. That's not to say that everything that comes out of ourselves is harmful, like placenta. On the other hand, while I don't think people think "oh that's cannibalism!" it's really about the closest you can come without it being true anthrophophagy, and I think that is one of the reasons why people become uncomfortable with it. Of course, there are cultures for which anthropophagy has a very important role. Some cultures believe that if the dead are not eaten, they will not go on to the afterlife. There is such a huge range of what people think is "okay" and "not okay," and there are usually reasons for why that logic developed. When I have a kiddo, I will probably see if I can take the placenta home and plant it under a tree. It's supposed to be great for trees, and it's a lovely way to mark a birth. I don't know if we'll be in a 'forever' home by then!"