That poor placenta! It’s such an amazing organ and yet so often overlooked. But take a moment to learn about it and you will find a truly remarkable process at work.
Did you know:
- The placenta can weigh 1-2 pounds and may be about dinner-plate size (approximately 9” diameter, 1” thick).
- The placenta secretes hormones, insulin growth factor and HCG.
- The placenta is not a barrier to the growing baby, as was once thought, but is more like a sieve. What you eat, drink and breathe reaches your baby to some extent.
- The placenta is the only organ your body will ever grow for a single specific purpose and then discard.
- The placenta is usually expelled within 5 to 45 minutes after the baby is born.
- Where the placenta attaches to the uterine wall is where mom’s blood and baby’s blood exchange oxygen and nutrients, although they never touch.
- The umbilical cord carries nutrients from the placenta into the baby’s blood stream.
- The average cord is 21-23 inches long, just long enough that most babies can make the full circle from womb to breast. Males tend to have slightly longer cords.
- The cord contains two arteries and one vein and holds approximately one third of the baby’s blood. The practice of delayed cord clamping allows the baby to receive this oxygen, hormone and nutrient-dense blood, which leads to healthier outcomes.
- Some cord stumps fall off within a few days, while others take several weeks.
Before you let someone toss your placenta in the trash, consider whether you might benefit from consuming it:
Some people choose to dehydrate and encapsulate their placenta for postpartum consumption. This is said to have many health benefits for the mother, especially in combatting postpartum depression. I personally recommend that anyone with a history of depression seriously consider placenta encapsulation because depression is not something to mess with. If you’re not comfortable doing placenta encapsulation yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you: your midwife or childbirth educator will likely know who offers that service in your area.
The process of encapsulation varies but usually involves rinsing the organ, steaming it (optional), cutting it into strips, dehydrating it at a low temperature, grinding the dehydrated strips into a powder, adding energy or lactation-boosting herb blends (optional), then encapsulating the powder. A placenta may yield 100 – 200 capsules, depending on size, addition of herb blends, preparation method and other factors. Some women choose to consume some of the placenta raw and encapsulate the rest.
One question often asked in class when we have a guest speaker on this topic is how long after the birth can the placenta be encapsulated? Usually, the response is that generally, the sooner the better. Some encapsulators will pick up the placenta from the birth place and return the capsules, beautifully wrapped, within 48-72 hours. Some will still offer encapsulation services even if your placenta has been sitting in your freezer for several months.
If you’re a bit braver, why not just eat the thing raw? Or cook up a little placenta lasagna? As I learned in my childbirth educator training when one woman shared how she and her husband each ate a bite of raw placenta after their baby’s birth, placenta is the only meat that comes from life, not death, so vegans can eat it too. Go ahead, google “placenta recipes” and you’ll find more ways to consume your placenta than you probably ever thought possible. Think placenta stew, placenta pizza, placenta roast, placenta cocktail, placenta jerky and even placenta heart-shaped chocolates, to name a few.
And yes, I’ve had people on my class hospital tour ask if, in the event they did transfer to the hospital for whatever reason, they could bring in a blender to make placenta smoothie.
Why encapsulate or consume your placenta??
Although many mammals do eat placenta, it often comes as a surprise to people in my classes to know that humans might choose to do so too. Since your placenta contains your own natural hormones, and was grown on that healthy nutritious diet you enjoyed throughout pregnancy, it is believed to be perfectly made for you and is believed to help:
- stimulate uterine contractions
- balance your system
- lessen your postpartum bleeding
- increase your breastmilk production
- ease your postpartum transition by decreasing insomnia and night sweats
- boost your energy levels
- balance hormones during menopause (keep those capsules frozen!)
- restore hormonal balance when your menstrual cycle returns
- replenish depleted iron and other vital nutrients lost during pregnancy and childbirth
- reduce the duration and severity of postpartum depression
There you have it: 10 reasons to eat your placenta!
If you are local and interested in having someone encapsulate your placenta for you, contact me and I’ll share the names and contacts for those currently offering that service.
Not convinced about consuming your placenta? Consider honoring it in a different way.
Stay tuned for Placenta Rituals Part 2!
Want to know more? Here are some great reads on the placenta:
- Placenta Encapsulation Instructions with Pictures
- Placenta Encapsulation FAQ
- The Amazing Placenta
- The Placenta Shapes Brain Development
What did you do with your placenta?