Monday, January 25, 2010

Inquisition Monday: Placentophagy

Mallory asked, "I can't remember if you have said anything about what you plan on doing with your placenta with the new baby or not. Have you thought about getting it encapsulated? Or anything like that? If you do plan on taking placenta, would you rather freeze pill sized pieces to take, or would you dehydrate/encapsulate?"

Our plan for the next placenta is the same as for the last one: save it and bury it with a bush/tree that's special for the child.

Have I thought about getting it encapsulated? Yes and no. I have friends who have encapsulated their placentas (dehydrated, then put in capsules- take 2 a day every day as needed until you run out of placenta). In comparing the postpartum experiences, they've said that the times they've consumed the placenta were the times that they experienced less postpartum depression. The placenta is a wonderful organ and has lots of nutrients in it. Many people use placental encapsulation to replenish some of those nutrients they lost in pregnancy and birth. The idea is very interesting and I've considered it- but I think I'm hooked on my romantic idea of having placental burying ceremonies, so dehydrating a placenta probably won't be in my near future.

Would I consider eating a piece of placenta for immediate postpartum medicinal reasons? Probably. The placenta is a great source for prostaglandins. The uterus is lined with prostaglandin receptors and will contract when prostaglandins are present. Prostaglandins have been used for inductions- and are even considered part of the reason why sex is suggested for inducing labor: semen is also a good source of prostaglandins. This site even mentions that a particular kind of prostaglandin, thromboxane, can contribute to blood clotting. I found this abstract which suggests that not only is thromboxane created in platelets, but it is also created in the uterus of pregnant rats. Having something that would be conducive to clotting sounds like a good idea if there's going to an open wound in your utuerus. I'd be interested in knowing if there have been any studies about the particular prostaglandins present in the human uterus and placenta and how they might affect hemorrhage and postpartum bleeding.

Back to placentophagy:
Ingesting those prostaglandins should signal to your uterus to contract. Contraction of the uterus after birth will help the uterus shrink back down to its original size and prevent hemorrhage. Of course, breastfeeding can do this, too, but if I was worried about hemorrhage, I'd probably cover all my bases and take a piece. I don't see any harm in it.

I've heard some moms say that just putting a piece in the inside of the cheek was enough. I have no experience with tasting placenta, but I've been told it's very iron-y, like the taste in your mouth after you lose a tooth. I've also been told that texture-wise it's like eating liver or other organs. I've seen recipes for placenta smoothies you could try if you wanted to mask the taste and texture of the placenta.

Here's a less-scientific description of how placentophagy works that I've read somewhere:
Your body works to get the baby out. When you start breastfeeding, you are "proving" to your body, "You got the baby out! See: breastfeeding!" and so the oxytocin starts contracting your uterus to help get the placenta out. Then once the placenta is out, putting all those prostaglandins in your body tells your body, "The placenta is out- you can stop bleeding now!" And so the uterus continues shrinking and cuts off the blood flow to where the placenta had been attached and so you don't bleed to death.

Obviously not the most scientific, of course, but it's fascinating that the appropriate hormones and chemicals are all there to help you recover from birth.

If you want your placenta encapsulated, there are people out there who will come and do it for you! In our search for possible postpartum doulas in the Bay Area, we've run across one or two who'll come and take care of that for you.

Oh and the other day Margaret insisted on watching monkey videos on Youtube and we ran across this chimpanzee video from BBC Worldwide. The mother chimp protects both her newborn and her placenta from incoming babboons. Apparently placentas are quite the delicacy.


  1. After the baby girl's birth I had my husband clean and chop the placenta. Over the course of the next 36 hours I ate banana/strawberry smoothies with placenta.

    I only bled 2 weeks after this birth and had absolutely no depression.

    Contrast that with 6 weeks of postpartum bleeding after the big girl's birth and I'm sold on the benefits of consuming the placenta!

  2. One thing I thought of, was eating the meat part of the placenta, and burying the cord and the rest of the placenta. Thanks for answering my question again this week, too! :D

  3. I had my placenta encapsulated after Max's birth, and the differences between that post-partum period and that of my girls was night and day. Even my husband who was initially repulsed by the idea is now singing its praises and trying to convince me to learn how to encapsulate them myself. But I think your idea sounds cool too.

    As far as a placenta smoothie goes, we used about 2 cups of frozen strawberries, half a banana, some organic yogurt and blended it all together with a slice of placenta about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. It tasted like a smoothie, which of course was a bonus.

  4. I just threw up a little bit!! But for some odd reason I keep coming back for more!

  5. Thanks for the info on this! I hadn't heard of encapsulating the placenta. That sounds like an easy way to reap the benefits. I like the idea of burying it, too, but lots of animals eat it, I wonder if we're supposed to?

  6. Go Fifi! Thanks for the video. It was quite fun! I wish I had known more about placentophagy when I was pregnant so I could have been more prepared and had known what to do. Now both placentas are collecting freezer burn waiting for me to figure out where I'll plant a tree with them.


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