Afterbirth, After Birth

"It started with the lentil soup. I looked into the bowl, the light orange swirls of legumes had bits and flecks of ham and mushroom and smoky black beans, and it was sprinkled with just enough salt and pepper. Truly a fine post partum soup for me and my princess, made with love by a friend. It was brought to me in thick hand-made bowl, swirls of blues and green and blacks and shaped like a small cauldron, a potter working out of a barn in Connecticut had crafted it just for me a few years back. I just stared at it, the bowl and the colors and the smells, the hyper-focus of my mind and my eyes sent me swimming somewhere else, far, far from my light flecked bedroom, walls the color of buttercream and soft silky fabric thrown over the window started closing in, eerie and almost Lynchian. The tears welled and I pushed the bowl away, looking up at the barer, staring into his eyes, they looked down at me in offering: I bring nourishment. But I felt nothing. Not an ounce of thanks or grace or contentment. Not anger or sadness. Just blankness, emptied like a vessel that was once full to the brim with anticipation and joy, of grateful waiting. The nothingness was pulled thick like suffocating wooliness over my body, then my throat and finally my head. Emptiness had become the heaviest, scratchiest of weights. And I began to sob.

I don’t want it. Just take it away. I push his hand hard and creamy lentils plopped over the edge of the bowl and onto the wood floor, a small bit splash onto the white down that kept me and Z warm. I rubbed it in with my finger and sob."
You might think this post is about Post Partum Depression - but wait, didn't I say this was about placentas? It's about both.

I have to go there. Why would someone consume their own placenta?

  • If you have been to that black, suffocating place, you might consider it...
  • If you had watched your life force drain out between your legs, you might consider it...
  • If you knew that the water used to make the formula for your baby might kill your little one, you might consider it...

So, before you write it off as cannibalism, New Age-ism, or just plain NASTY, stop and think what your placenta could do for you.

The placenta is an amazing organ, it can stop postpartum bleeding, stave off postpartum depression, and increase milk production.

During pregnancy:
It acts as a filter and a transfer. It receives nutritients, antibodies, hormones and oxygen from mom's blood but passes out the waste. It produces it's own progesterone, somatomammotropin, estrogen, relaxin, and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).

In fact, it is so smart that it cloaks itself - it hides itself from the rest of mom's body so that her immune system cannot detect it's presence and attempt to get rid of it.

After Birth:
AS mentioned before, the placenta contains prostaglandin, which stimulates the uterus to contract and involute; in effect cleaning it out. It also contains oxytocin, which causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells (in breast tissue) to contract and eject milk - promoting lactation.

This same oxytocin, while also being paired with the molecule POEF (Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor - only found in amniotic fluid and placental tissue) relieves PP discomfort and the incidence of postpartum depression.

POEF reacts to the bodies normal hormonal spikes, which act as a pain reliever and amnesiac naturally, and produces an enhancement of the natural reduction in pain that occurs during birth.

So, next time you hear someone say they are keeping their placenta, going to preserve their placenta, or consume their placenta, perhaps you should swallow your knee-jerk reaction to say how disgusting it is, how weird it is, or how Hippy it is, and instead take a moment to revel in how perfectly our bodies, and our placentas, are made.


Lil said...

i had PPD just 2 yrs ago...bad, severe, suicidal PPD...after what i've just read, i'd swallow it whole if i knew it would have helped saved me from my hopelessness and my little one from separation anxiety. wow...just wow.


ps. i've a blog on my PPD story (to be yet divulged), if it's ok with you, i'd like to link to this story?

bellygirl said...

placentas are so cool! the 1st birth i attended the doc asked if anyone wanted to see it and i was like "oh i do! i do!" he showed it all to me, it was the 1st one i'd actually gotten to see like that. her husband was so grossed o/.

i can't say i disagree w/ what you said, i do think i need to get my head wrapped around it a bit, but i can honestly say that i don't ever think i'd be a lotus birther, that's just too much for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a positive post about placentas in general, and placentophagy in particular. Placentas are amazing organs that are essential to the baby, but also to the mother during her postpartum recovery.


Jodi Selander
Founder, PlacentaBenefits.info

Anonymous said...

Thank you for opening my mind to something I have never thought of before. It's funny how we can go from "I would never do that" to "maybe I would" to "great idea" and finally "this is the best decision for me. I did this in the past with being a stay at home mom, cloth diapering, nursing longer than a year, natural birth. I am probably still in the "I would never do that" phase, but I love to have new ideas presented to me.

TheFeministBreeder said...

I have a doula friend who just became a placenta encapsulation specialist, and next time I will SO be eating my placenta (in capsule form, cuz, come on).

If it could help just even the tiniest bit with the debilitating post partum depression then, like somebody else said, I'd swallow it whole. I made my doctor show me my last one and let me take pictures of it after my VBAC. I wish I'd been smart enough to save it and eat it then.


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