Placentophagy is also growing in popularity in the Western world. Placentophagy (consuming the placenta) is practiced across many different cultures and has been documented throughout history. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using placenta therapy for thousands of years for a variety of treatments. Additionally, almost all mammals consume the placenta after birth. Although modern scientific research on placentophagy is only recently being explored, the anecdotal history speaks loudly to it’s many benefits.
The placenta is full of nourishing, bio-available vitamins and minerals (most notably iron, which is important to restore the blood), as well as hormones specific to the mother, all of which a new mother can immediately use to replenish her health and vitality during the postpartum stage. Other benefits recorded include faster healing, improved milk supply, enhanced overall energy and elimination or prevention of postpartum blues.
There are several ways a mother might chose to ingest the placenta after her baby’s birth and/or later in life. The most common, and for most women the most palatable method, is through encapsulation. In this process, the placenta is either steamed (as in TCM method, in which therapeutic herbs could also be added) or kept raw, sliced thinly and dehydrated at a low temperature, then ground to a powder which is then placed into capsules. The capsules can be taken throughout the postpartum period to support the mother’s health.
A tincture can also be made with a small amount of the placenta soaked in alcohol for several weeks. This method allows the placenta to be preserved over time for later use, such as during menopause or times of stress or illness.
Some women chose to consume the placenta immediately after birth to begin receiving the benefits sooner, and a common method here is to blend it into a smoothie that successfully masks any undesired flavor and can taste delicious. In this instance, a mother might chose to reserve a small portion of the placenta for this use and encapsulate the remaining.
If you are birthing at home it will be easy for you to keep the placenta. If you are birthing in a hospital it is important that you inform your caregivers of your plan and desire to keep the placenta, regardless of how you intend to use it. Just like any other perishable food product, the placenta needs to be handled and stored safely and can spoil over time if not properly preserved. It should be refrigerated or frozen until it can be processed for the chosen method.
Whatever you decide to do, or not do, with your placenta, hopefully you will make an informed decision about the fate of the placenta, which played such a valuable role in the life of your baby and in the connection you shared with your baby in utero.
Written by Usha Rose Avallone, LMT. Usha teaches prenatal yoga at The Nest and specializes in prenatal massage and infant craniosacral therapy. She is a trained birth and postpartum doula and offers placenta encapsulation services. See her website for more info: www.usharose.com