Placenta – Trash or Treasure?


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shapeimage_3The placenta begins developing immediately after conception. Recent studies have shown that when the fertilized egg divides to form the first two cells, one is already destined to form the placenta, while the other becomes the baby. It develops rapidly, and by about the 12th week of gestation it fully takes on the role of maintaining the fetus.
The placenta produces the large volume of chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone required to maintain the pregnancy. Nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s blood are transferred to the fetal blood, and waste products are transferred from the fetal blood to the maternal blood, keeping the two supplies basically separate. It’s a big job, and it’s all done by a temp! The placenta is the only organ designed to be disposable.

After the baby is born, the contracting of the uterus forces the placenta to separate from the wall, and it is expelled with the amniotic sack and umbilical cord as a single unit. Much smaller than the baby, and without bones, some moms might not even notice its exit as they are adoring their newborn. The loss of the extra hormones the placenta had been producing is the trigger for the transition from colostrum to milk production in the mother’s breasts.

How can we notshapeimage_4 be in awe of this amazing organ? Yet in modern birth practice the placenta is treated as so much medical waste. After a quick inspection by the OB or Midwife to check for abnormalities that could affect mom or baby, it is usually discarded.

Almost every mammal in nature chooses to take nourishment from their placenta. Humans and camels are the only mammals that do not do this regularly. Since nature and evolution usually know best, consider the benefits of consuming the placenta. In addition to high levels of protein and iron, it contains prostaglandin, estrogen and oxytocin. These hormones help the uterus return to its normal size and prevent hemorrhage, support milk production and letdown, and create feelings of love and nurturing behavior.
You can get the benefits of consuming your placenta in a relatively palatable way; encapsulation. By cooking and then drying the placenta it is possible to grind it into a powder that can be put into capsules and taken as a nutritional supplement.

There are many good arguments for consuming the placenta. It is believed that returning tDSC_0060he hormones in the placenta to your body helps ease the transition from pregnancy to non pregnancy hormone levels, and thus may even help prevent or treat Postpartum Depression (PPD) and anxiety. In addition it is claimed to increase energy level, immunities, help in recovery from birth, and support successful breastfeeding. While there are currently no randomized trials to back up these claims, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence and historical record. American Medical anthropologists at the University of South Florida and UNLV, surveyed new mothers, and found that about 3/4 had positive experiences from ingesting their own placenta, citing “improved mood”, “increased energy”, and “improved lactation”.

So will you eat your placenta? It seems there is no harm if you are willing, and prepare it responsibly; and the possible benefits may be worth the effort.

Please contact me at doula@houndhill.com if you would like me to encapsulate your placenta.