Why I ate my placenta
Well – encapsulated...(same same but different?!)
Growing up on a farm in rural New Zealand I witnessed the miracle of birth many many times. I also saw my parents assist the cows as they gave birth when there were complications. One occasion that springs to mind is when I saw the head of a calf coming out, but it was covered by what I only knew at the time as afterbirth. The still yet to be born calf was at risk of suffocating, being unable to breath so I snuck as quietly and gently as I could up to the cow to peel it off the calves nose so it could breath freely. It was probably the only time I did it but it stuck in my mind as a literal life saving event. I think I was about eight. My Dad couldn’t do it because he was trying to keep the cow calm by staying in her sight and reassuring her it would be okay, and we were in a massive paddock so if she ran off things could’ve been disastrous. It seemed very touch and go, but thankfully everything was okay and we then watched carefully the cow safely deliver her baby.
Although I had seen births of the farm many times before, I watched in awe/horror as after licking the newborn calf, the cow proceeded to eat the placenta. It grossed me out. This was the only part of the “afterbirth” that she ate. It struck me as weird and I didn’t really think about it again until I was a Mother myself.
Why did the cow voluntarily eat her placenta? Why would a herbivore voluntarily eat an organ that it grew itself? Turns out, it’s not just cows – a lot of animals in the animal kingdom go out of their way to consume their placenta after birth. Some believe that this is simply done to ‘hide the evidence’ of birth, but that’s something I struggle with as there is a lot of other things that come out too that are not consumed...!
It’s a fascinating area once you start looking into it. It’s called Placentophogy. The research into this area is relatively small and with conflicting views. Mainly because it’s hard to measure and a lot of the feedback is anecdotal.
With my first two births I saved the placenta and I planted a Bay tree on top of it. As a Classics enthusiasts (Ancient mythologies etc) I liked/like the meaning behind it. I planted them in large planters so that we could always take them with us wherever we lived and as I buried them (yes it was disgusting to do) I felt an obligation to give thanks to this miracle organ that fed and grew my babies.
Clearly – I hadn’t heard of eating my placenta at this point. To be honest I think at that point I would’ve been totally grossed out at the thought of it. Most people I knew who were having babies just got rid of their placenta at the hospital so even to have a burial for it seemed a bit out there!
It wasn’t until my good friend had a lotus birth that I began to really consider a bit more about the placenta and the role that it can play AFTER birth.
A lotus birth is where you leave the placenta and umbilical cord attached until it falls out. Yes it sounds a bit gross but you wrap up the placenta in a special bag to carry around with the baby. The premise behind it is it allows for all (most) of the nutrients from the placenta to be transferred to the baby, helping them to be grounded on earth with their very own tree of life, supposedly making the transition peaceful. For sure it seems to have been the case with her daughter. Have a read online about it, it’s really cool!
I’m pretty sure she tried some placenta in her spagbol. Or maybe not, but I remember talking about it and being fascinated – and still a little grossed out!
All of my children were c section babies, so I didn’t go through the physical process of birthing the placenta as such. And because we chose to do cord banking with all of our children we couldn’t leave the cord and placenta attached for very long. It seemed in the operating room like the cord was clamped and cut virtually straight away.
Cord banking – by the way is incredible. Stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord after birth, they are then stored and can be used in the future if there is ever any serious sickness where they can be used for regeneration. Stem cell research is a fascinating area of modern medicine, and the advancements that are made yearly are huge - let alone what may be possible in decades to come. From what we had researched we were already very impressed and wanted to give this gift of pure and unaltered life force to our children in the future. This is our form of health insurance for the kids I guess you could say. For more info check out cordbank.co.nz
Anyway – as you’ll know by now I like to research things, I started reading more about what can be done with placentas. From what I read a lot of scientific publications seemed to disagree with the notion that it was of any benefit and it was the placebo effect in action. However, I believe there are many things that are difficult to measure or quantify. Sometimes simply the tools for measuring are not sophisticated enough – it does not mean necessarily that something does not work. I’m a big believer in don’t knock it ‘till you try it for yourself too! From what I read about all the animals in the wild eating theirs EVEN when they were pure herbivores, and the benefits mothers were anecdotally speaking of – I knew that when my third baby was on his way this was something I needed to try for myself.
So – I discovered that you can get your placenta encapsulated.
Hold up – what? Does that mean it’s chopped up and you swallow bits of meat?
No. It most certainly does not. You COULD literally eat your placenta if you wanted to. But that wasn’t something I was keen on.
The encapsulating process involves steaming, drying and grinding and then encapsulating the placental tissues. The lady I found does this in the Traditional Chinese Method which means that the placenta is washed, steamed with ginger (effectively cooked), then dehydrated, ground into a powder and placed into capsules.
Above pic with the placenta print - which looks like the tree of life (no coincidence), and the tincture, and placenta pills. Got to admit the bit of cord shaped into the word love is a little creepy...!
Anyway, so you take them 1-3 x a day for the first few days and as and when needed after that. I still have some in the freezer and take them when I need an energy boost.
The benefits about ingesting an encapsulated placenta I read about included;
Help balancing hormones, increasing milk supply, combating fatigue, increasing energy, prevent signs of aging, speeding up recovery after childbirth, replenishing what was lost during childbirth, bringing the body back into balance, preventing and treating the ‘baby blues’, shortening the postnatal bleeding time, increasing postnatal iron levels.
Other things some claimed it could help with include; building baby’s immune system, help with any type of trauma and life’s transitional times, weaning from breast feeding, healing bone breaks and regulating hormones during menopause.
Obviously, some of the above I can’t account for. I’m not yet at the menopausal stage of my life, but...
What did I notice?
Well, firstly, I don’t even really remember Wendy coming to the hospital to collect the placenta, but she floated in like an angel the following day with the placenta encapsulation already done.
I started taking them right away. Important to bear in mind that this was the day following the birth of my child. Also important to note that this was my third birth, all of which were c sections so anecdotally I have a reasonable point of reference.
I felt my milk levels stabilise faster than before. You could argue that this is because my body had been through it before. Sure you could. Maybe, maybe not. I attribute it to the placenta.
I felt my recovery was much much faster than the others – if you read my c section recovery plan you’ll see there are a variety of things I did – but this definitely played a KEY part.
I felt like my hormone levels were much more balanced and I experienced much less of the baby blues than with previous babies. Despite not getting nearly as much rest and having two other children at home (aged 4 ½ and 2 ¼ at the time), and two dogs (aka a completely chaotic household) as well as a newborn baby, my fatigue and tiredness was much less than the other times (thank fuck goodness!).
I was off all painkillers after five days. To compare – the first birth I was on painkillers for around 12 days, second time round 10 days. With both of the first two occasions I was off all the ‘hard stuff’ like tramadol etc after a week, but still on paracetamol and brufen the remainder of the time.
If I felt like I needed pain medication I would’ve taken it – there’s no point pushing yourself after a major surgery (yes c sections are classified as ‘major’ surgery). I honestly didn’t feel like I need it. I was also taking homeopathic remedies of arnica 200c and hypericum 200c during this time which I found very helpful as well – however I did that with the second birth too.
Did it shorten post-natal bleeding? Yes it was shorter than previous times (yes you still have post natal bleeding after a c section, not kidding, something I didn’t know going into the first one ).
Has it prevented signs of aging? It’s too soon to tell on that one, but after three babies in 5 years I feel like I have aged a LOT and look more like 50 than my actual age of 34, so here’s hoping it’ll help moving forward...!
Following on from the birth I have given myself some doses of the capsules when I’ve felt my milk supply has been a bit low, or my energy levels have needed a boost, or emotionally draining times and I’ve found it’s been effectively very quickly.
I feel like ingesting and therefore passing on the goodness from the tree of life helped to ease the transition of my son earthside, a grounding sort of element to it for him. Some articles I’d read suggested that it can help babies relax and seem more content. I’m not sure how you measure that, but I feel like that was the case with my son. Again – a tricky one to measure, obviously I knew a lot more of how to care for a baby, add in his personality and I’m not sure it’s measurable on any sort of scientific scale.
Would I recommend it?
If this is something you’ve been considering, I can whole heartedly say I found it incredible. I would DEFINITELY do it again and wish I knew about it for my first two births.
Although I’m almost out of my pills, I also got a tincture that I can use and am also getting some made into a homeopathic remedy to use during stressful and overwhelming times in the future when grounding is needed. Apparently it can help with weaning which I'm currently going through so fingers crossed as, it may sound weird, but it's quite an emotional thing to go through!
If it is something you’re considering – as always, do your own research and find someone that comes well recommended, who is happy to talk you through the process of what goes on. This is not something you want any old cowboy doing!
If you’re in Auckland I totally recommend Wendy from placentatree.co.nz
She is amazing.
To your Vitality!