Thursday, August 23, 2012

On Eating My Placenta

I remember the day Arthur came to me and told me he had heard a crazy story from his vegan hippie buddies at Trader Joe's. He went on to tell me about how he had heard that people eat their placentas. "What? Ew, gross! Why would anyone do that?" I asked, not really even knowing what a placenta was. He explained that it apparently has some sort of amazing health benefits to it. We both agreed that it sounded disgusting and moved on.

Fast forward a couple years—becoming mild hippies ourselves—and now we find ourselves enamored with the idea of eating my placenta. Imagine that.
A little context: The role of the placenta is essentially to sustain a baby. It's loaded with hormones and antibodies that grow and protect the baby. The umbilical cord is attached to the placenta, carrying oxygen and food to the baby (source). And actually, many mammals eat their placenta after birth (Placentophagy), including herbivorous ones (source). Human placenta has been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, but has recently become more popular in Western culture as a post-natal supplement.  

The school of thought behind ingesting the human placenta is that it helps with many of the postpartum side effects. One of the most talked about alleged benefits is that it helps balance the immediate postpartum drop in hormones by putting some of them back in your body via the placenta, which is rich in pregnancy hormones. This drastic hormone drop can be a contributing factor to postpartum disorder (PPD), so the placenta may be helpful in stabilizing mama's mood. Other supposed benefits of ingesting the placenta are an increase in breast milk supply, help controlling postpartum bleeding, and boosting iron and other vitamin stores.

From what I've researched, there isn't any conclusive evidence that shows eating your placenta works. However, the countless stories of women doing so and raving about the positive effects has left us thinking that there might actually be something to it. So we're doing it, or rather, I'm doing it. We figure there's no harm in doing so, so why not give it a shot? The downside of this experiment is that we have nothing to compare it to. Since this is our first baby, I don't have a postpartum history to reference. But, hey, if I'm feeling great, we'll assume it's the placenta pills doing their job...and God's abundant grace.

Are you picturing my vegetarian self sitting down with a fork and a knife at the dinner table? Yeah, not quite. Although some people do eat it raw, use it as a pizza topping, grill it, blend it in a smoothie, dice and freeze it in chunks for snacking, or even make art with it, we are going to encapsulate it. As long as the birth happens without infection, we will sign to release my placenta from the hospital and immediately hand it off to our placenta encapsulation specialist, who just so happens to also be our doula. She will take it home with her to be steamed, dehydrated and blended in her for-placentas-only Magic Bullet (hah!), and return it to us in about 200 tidy capsules. All I have to do is deliver the thing—easy.

Placenta art (source)
I'm not going to lie, it still kind of gives me the heebie jeebies, but I'm excited and think it's worth it. It also helps that I've got a great support partner cheering me on and not yelling "Gross!" in my ear. I'm not sure I would/could do it if we weren't aligned on this decision. I'm also not the biggest fan of taking my vitamins. My loving husband has to ask almost every night if I've taken my vitamins since I try to sneak out of it. About 50% of the time I say no, in which case he goes and gets them for me along with a tall glass of water. Pills just make me feel gaggy. With the placenta pills, I will be taking three of them, three times a day until I run out. Again, it's worth it.

We totally get that many of you probably think we're crazy, but that's okay. We'll take your eye rolls for now and report back once I've had a couple weeks of placenta pills under my belt. Here's to a healthy placenta!

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