Often called the tree of life, it is an increasingly popular organ for modern women to eat after childbirth, and some have made art with it. Pictured above is one mother’s Placenta Art.
Following is a article Ozzie Ozkay-Villa wrote for Nourishing Our Children.
Have you ever watched a dog or other family pet give birth? Yes it is exciting and cute and beautiful and all that fun stuff. And then, IT comes out … bloody, gooey red blob. Just when you thought it was over … they eat it!
Yes, the placenta. The organ that nourishes your baby while he is in your womb. Some call it beautiful, some call it gross, some gag at the mere thought of it. If you ever get the chance to examine one – it’s actually quite fascinating; it looks like the tree of life! Above all, one thing is for certain, it plays a miraculous and vital part in growing a fetus.
My name is Ozzie, I founded Alternative Mothers Group and am a birth and post-partum doula serving Marin County. Not only do I attend births but I also take home this amazing thing we call the Placenta, and bring it back to my clients in pill form all wrapped up in a pretty little bottle.
All other mammals in the wild eat their placenta after the birth of their young. As with much of our modern world, we choose not to question why so much has changed from our roots – after all, we are animals too aren’t we? Ok, I’m not expecting you to pick up your placenta and eat it right after the birth of your beautiful baby (although I do know women that have done this). Yes, the animals in the wild eat it partly to clean up all evidence of a birth but they also eat it for many other reasons:
- It contains lots of nutrients and hormones
- It can help to balance your hormones and eliminate postpartum depression
- It can increase energy
- It can reduce your postpartum healing time
- It can increase your milk supply and make richer milk
- It can reduce symptoms at menopause
Specifically, the placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin which stimulates involution (an inward curvature or penetration, or, a shrinking or return to a former size) of the uterus, in effect cleaning the uterus out. The placenta also contains small amounts of oxytocin which eases birth stress and causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk. Read more about placentophagy.
How to Eat Your Placenta
You have some options if you are considering eating your placenta. For any of these options you want to make sure you clean it really well before you ingest it. Wash off all blood, cut off the umbilical cord and get as much of the sac off as you can.
It takes a particular personality to pull this off. As I said before, it’s not as popular, and if you are having a hospital birth, I can assure you they are not going to let you do this immediately after. If you are having a home birth, this is completely your decision. Often times a midwife may suggest it as an option to stop excessive postpartum bleeding, although she does come with other tools in her bags if this should ever happen to you.
This can be done two ways – you can either cut off pieces of the placenta into tiny bits and swallow them (just like a pill). Or you can blend it into a smoothie. I would suggest using strong ingredients to cover the taste if you opt for the smoothie version. It’s been said by moms that have chosen the uncooked option that they experience an immediate rush of energy, so that’s pretty cool!
Another option is to cook the placenta as you would any other piece of organ meat. You can pretty much do anything from stews, to pizza topping. Again, go for bold flavors and lots of spices. Since you’ll probably have a lot of whatever you cook (and since you’ll probably be eating it on your own) you might want to freeze some of it so that you can continue to take it should you feel down or anxious at all those first several weeks. I would suggest freezing it in smaller portions, as any other frozen food, you don’t want to pull it out of the freezer and re-freeze it afterward.
This seems to be the more popular choice and is when you would call a “Placenta Processor” (or doula) to take care of this for you. It is something that you can do on your own but with the madness of a new baby at home – trust me it’s not worth your time or energy. It can be a very tedious and messy task and the equipment alone can cost about $200 which is close to what most Placenta Processors charge anyway.
There are two methods to encapsulation. The first, more traditional, Chinese method is to steam the placenta, stovetop with a variety of healing herbs. You then slice it up and place it in a food dehydrator until it’s crispy, usually 8-10 hours (at this point you could also eat it like beef jerky). You then grind it up in a coffee grinder until it turns into a powdery consistency and put it into capsules that you can find at your local health food store. You can also buy a capsule filling machine but again, they can be pricey and it is still tedious nonetheless. The second method is to skip the steaming process altogether and go straight to slicing, dehydrating, grinding and encapsulating (this is also a “raw” option).
This is usually done in addition to encapsulation as the tincture can last for years and years if stored in a dry dark place. It can be taken during times of sickness, PMS or high stress. To make the tincture, you blend a small chunk of the fresh placenta with some high quality vodka. Store in a mason jar for 6 weeks (give the jar a swirl every day). Strain off the placenta with some cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter. Not only that but it can also be given to baby in times of high stress or sickness.
[Editor’s note – here is a resource for further reading: The Placenta Cookbook.]
It is not rare anymore to hear from the most mainstream of mothers that she is choosing to encapsulate her placenta with her second child for fear of suffering from Postpartum Depression again. And, when you can get it in pill form – it doesn’t really even phase you!
That said, this is a very personal decision and not everyone feels comfortable making this choice. There have been reports of mothers taking their placenta pills and feeling jittery and wired.
As with all pregnancy, birthing and parenting decisions, it is important to remember we are all unique and what works for one mother, may not work for another. The best advice anyone can give you is to be open minded, do your research, then make an informed decision – whatever that decision may be.
About Our Guest Author
Ozzie Ozkay-Villa is founder and president of Alternative Mothers Group and works as a birth and postpartum doula serving Marin County. For more information, or if you are interested in Placenta Encapsulation please visit her website.
Eating one’s placenta is not without controversy.
Here are a few articles I encourage you to read which highlight that point: