The Pregnancy Wellness Guide: Eating your own placenta
The Pregnancy Wellness Guide: Part #7 – Eating Your Own Placenta
- Did that title grab your attention?
- Have you already heard of (and perhaps chosen to) consume your own placenta?
- Or is this so foreign and totally whack that you don’t even want to read on!?
Well, surprisingly consuming your own placenta has become alot more palatable over the last few years. And yes, PUN intended. It is now becoming more popular and common to ‘eat’ your own placenta… and it’s now much easier to do. You’re probably not surprised to hear that this is something I hae chosen to do… but before you freak out I won’t be cooking up my placenta with some diced onion and garlic. I’ll be encapsulating it and taking it daily, post birth.
Rather than me pretend to be the ‘placenta’ expert I’ve called on Erika Elliot from MotherBirth to do some explaining for you! Firstly let me introduce Erika.
Erika Elliott began her professional life as a birthworker in 2005 when she founded MotherBirth. The MotherBirth service provides loving support, contemporary knowledge, traditional wisdom and a decade of experience supporting Sydney’s birthing community. Erika is dedicated to supporting families as they find their way during pregnancy and birth.
Erika is a mother, doula & childbirth educator offering calmbirthⓇ weekends and Birthing from WithinTM classes. Her qualifications also include prenatal massage therapy, birth photography, post natal doula support, birth story healing and placenta encapsulation.
I was lucky enough to ask Erika a few questions on Placenta Consumption that I hope will really help you understand WHY this is such an important health practice and something that I can’t wait to try. Obviously I’m completely new to this too, so I will provide an update in the post-partum months of my experience, but I figure there is no harm (considering I grew the placenta in the first place!)
Why do you recommend women ‘consume’ their placenta? What are some of the benefits (mental, emotional, physical?)
Firstly, I would like to say that nothing benefits a new mother more than continued one on one support at home as she recovers from labour and birth and as she begins to integrate all that is required of her as a primary carer of new life. Unfortunately, in our culture, most of the time this is not possible as family may not be close by or the art of caring for the mother as she cares for her baby is not in the familial tradition. When this continued one on one care is not possible, or even if it is, the placenta capsules are a way of powerfully boosting the new Mothers’ system as she turns her attention to the tasks at hand.
“Baby blues” is a common occurrence –80% of mothers experience it in the first days and weeks after giving birth. Because it is so common, nothing is typically done about it until it may worsen into a diagnosis of postpartum depression, at which time anti-depressants may be prescribed. Antidepressants, like almost all drugs, are passed to the baby through breast milk, and mothers who don’t want to expose their babies to these medications are often faced with the decision to either stop breastfeeding or struggle with depression. Women suffer through the baby blues almost as a rite of passage to motherhood – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Placenta consumption has been reported for decades to help stop the baby blues and diminish postpartum fatigue. Some women have cooked the placenta in a stew, mixed it into a smoothie, or even taken it raw to tap into its powerful effects. For many who feel squeamish about this or want to reap the benefits of their placenta for more than just a day or two, there is another option; encapsulation.
What is Placenta Encapsulation and what can it provide?
Placenta encapsulation is the transformation of a nutrient dense organ into powerful, palatable food as medicine for post pregnancy and birth recovery.
Powdered placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. In the early postpartum period, placenta capsules can
- Faster milk production due to the high levels ofhormones including prolactin
- Shorter postpartum bleeding due to oxytocin and urokinase inhibiting factor and factor XIII
- Energy boosts thanks to the high iron content
- A sense of well being from the natural progesterone and cortisone content
- A possible reduction in or total elimination of post partum depression due to the many hormones at play but specifically the corticotropin-releasing hormone which drops significantly after the birth of the placenta
- Reduction of pain due to oxytocin which has an opioid like effect
Historically, have human beings ever consumed their placenta? Is this a lost tradition or a relatively new one?
We have no evidence of women consuming dehydrated, encapsulated placenta historically, but there is documentation of women consuming their placenta raw, immediately after birth, or cooking it and eating it as a meal. I believe this form of encapsulating pure placenta is a relatively new one which is growing in popularity incredibly quickly. I have been encapsulating for just over 4 years now, and this part of my business is one of the busiest!
Have their been any tests/studies to prove the validity of this practice?
There is no evidence based, scientific study out yet, although I have read that the results of one study are due out around May 2015. As with all things, science and evidence based information can be helpful, but we are also at will to connect with our intuition and turn our attention to other mammals and what they do with their placentas. For me, the evidence lies with the Mothers’ I work with.
Do you find that most hospitals/birthing centres are willing to help with proper care/handling of the placenta?
Yes, absolutely. I also provide the couple with a sheet of information for themselves and their caregivers as to how the placenta needs to be handled immediately after birth so it is in prime condition for collection and encapsulation.
Have you had a personal experience with this practice? If so, can you give us an insight into your experience? If not, can you share what other mums have reported from their experience?
Unfortunately, when I birthed our baby 11 years ago, I had only heard of cooking and eating the placenta and that was not something I was interested in at the time as we were eating a macrobiotic diet. Encapsulation had not come into my awareness until just over four years ago so I have no personal experience of reaping the benefits.
However, the women I work with report that they have balanced energy levels, with the usual tiredness from broken sleep, but not exhaustion. Abundance of breastmilk, decreased post-partum bleeding and discomfort and an unexpected confidence in their ability. Interestingly, a number of my clients have been vegan or vegetarian and they still found the capsules a very palatable way to ingest their placenta.
So there you have it. What do you think? Still grossed out or completely intrigued? I can’t wait to read your comments below!
love + light,
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