The first and only time I saw my baby’s placenta was when I stood up from a kneeling position, newborn in arms, and stepped over it on the floor to get to the couch. I’ve struggled since to find the words to describe it because eloquence has failed me.
The best I can come up with is “18s“. As in “not PG“. Does that make sense?
I found it quite disturbing to look at it. It was so real, alive, vital. So grown up and serious looking. Even now, looking at pictures of them makes me catch my breathe. When my midwife asked me if I’d thought about what I’d like to do with my placenta, I honestly answered “no”. She offered to take it away, I agreed. No further discussion took place.
I think my reaction was understandable. In reality, very few women get to see their placenta at all. It’s often whisked away after delivery to be examined by the medical team and then incinerated. A placenta is not something that you see every day and even if it was, there’s no denying it’s a serious looking, blood rich, veiny, deep coloured structure and it’s easy to see where it gets the moniker “tree of life”. Of course it has to be. Placentas are such a miracle of an organ – life giving, sustaining, nourishing. Something that does such important, serious, miraculous work will most certainly look the part.
It’s only in recent months that I’ve become aware of the breadth of options available for your post partum placenta. I’ll be honest, some of them are just not for me but others, I’d definitely consider:
1. You can eat it.
It is possible to eat your placenta either raw or cooked. You can fry it up with some onions and eat it that way or you can cut up small slivers and mix it with fruit and yoghurt for a placenta smoothie. Eating your placenta is associated with reduced instances of post natal depression, an abundant milk supply, increased energy levels and minimising post partum blood loss. There is very little evidence-based research to support these claims at the moment but if a woman feels any of the above benefits after consuming her placenta, whether it is a placebo effect or not, then it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t. Dried placenta is also used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat fertility, impotence, asthma and correcting imbalances in the body.
Incidentally, women who choose to eat their placenta in this way report that when consumed in smoothie form it’s virtually or completely indistingishable from the rest of the smoothie. When it’s cooked with onions it tastes similar to liver, which answers the question in my blog title: no, it does not taste like chicken.
Given the opportunity again, I personally wouldn’t go for this option but i can certainly see why many others would.
2. You can encapsulate it.
Encapsulation is the process of steaming and dehydrating your placenta and then grinding it into a powder to place in capsules. These can then be taken like any other vitamin. The benefits reported are the same as eating the placenta as above. There are a number of encapsulation services around Ireland that can do this for you or you can order an encapsulation kit online if you’d prefer to do it yourself. I am squeamish at the best of times and having recently watched this process on TV, I wouldn’t ask a loved one to do this for me for the joy of it. However it’s definitely something I’d be prepared to pay someone else to do. Apparently one placenta can make approximately 100 capsules which can be consumed in the few weeks after birth or stored for use during the menopause. Now this I like the sound of!
3. You can donate your placenta to a K9 search unit
This was a totally new one on me I have to say but it makes perfect sense. Human remains detection K9 units use dogs to track and retrieve the remains of missing persons. The natural scent of your placenta will help train a dog to obtain a wide spectrum scent source and help recover those who are lost, missing and have disappeared. A noble use for your placenta if ever there was one. More details are available here at the Laois Civil Defence K9 Unit Facebook page.
4. You can bury it and plant a tree over it.
This is a lovely symbolic gesture to mark the birth of your children I think. The only downside is if you ever have to move house, you’ll have to leave your tree behind. Remember also you have to plant your placenta several feet underground so that animals cannot dig it up.
5. You can make a piece of art with it
You can make a print of your placenta on card to be framed and displayed at a later date or some placenta service providers will also do this for you. Google is your friend here.
6. You can have it incinerated
This is the default option really. If you’ve had a baby in hospital, staff will automatically send it for incineration if you specifically request to keep it. Don’t worry about them saying no. It is yours after all so they have to give it to you, unless there’s a medical reason that they need to keep it for. It might be worth enquiring with your caregiver before the event just to have the conversation.
So there you have it – 6 options for your placenta. I’m sure there are probably others. If you don’t want to decide straight away what to do with it, you can freeze it while you make up your mind.
I would definitely consider encapsulation or donation to the K9 unit if there were a next time. I don’t have the stomach to either prepare or eat it fresh. Our garden is too small for planting trees and I’m sure Pip would also feel left out if he didn’t have one. I can appreciate the art but I don’t get it myself. And I’ve already done number 6 🙂
What would you do?