A few quick facts about the placenta:
- It is the only organ that is grown within and then expelled from the body.
- Humans are the only mammals who do not eat their placentas.
- The placenta is unique to each baby it supports.
- Chewing on a small chunk of placenta can protect against hemorrage.
Commonly referred to as the afterbirth, the mother or the tree of life, the placenta is the intricate and beautiful organ that supports baby through its development in the womb. While many revere and respect the placenta, many are unsure of what to do with it once birthed. Below are a few options:
Placenta encapsulation is the process of steaming, drying, powdering and encapsulating the placenta. By encapsulating the placenta, all the power and benefits of ingesting the placenta are packaged in small, easily digestible pills. Many women report that consuming their placenta post birth gives them more energy and helps them to regulate their mood. This is especially true for mommas who may be at risk for postpartum depression or anxiety. “I wanted to set myself up for success during the postpartum period,” said Christina P. of Portland Ore., “I have suffered from depression in the past and my mother passed away during my pregnancy, so avoiding depression was important to me. I’m so happy I (encapsulated) and am looking forward to having it done again.” Amanda Englund of www.placentapower.com encapsulated her own placenta after she researched the benefits. “The benefits that I received were life-changing,” said Englund, who now offers placenta encapsulation services in Portland, Ore. “I have seen it have very positive benefits for clients ranging from stabilizing emotional health, boosting energy, increasing milk supply and keeping them from feeling blue,” she said. In today’s culture, there seems to be a pill for just about everything. Placenta encapsulation provides access to one of the best pills nature has to offer.
In the Portland area, there are a variety of quality placenta encapsulators including Amanda Englund at www.placentapower.com. To find a placenta encapsulator in your area, simply do an internet search.
Placenta tincture is a concentrated liquid extract made from soaking the placenta in alcohol. Like encapsulation, making a placenta tincture provides a postpartum momma access to the many benefits of placenta including increased energy, mood regulation and increased milk supply. A tincture is different, however in that you take just a few drops of the tincture each day postpartum and potentially for years following. Because the alcohol stabilizes the nutrients of the placenta, many women are able to use their tincture for many years and even into menopause. In addition, since the tincture process creates such a large volume of tincture, momma can share drops of her placenta tincture with her partner and children. Containing hormones such as cortisol and oxytocin, taking the placenta tincture can help relieve stress in times of difficulty or transition for all members of the family.
Click here to see how to make a placenta tincture.
Except for human beings, all mammals eat their placenta. Primarily, this is done to protect both the mother and her young from predators who might smell or see the after birth and know that dinner might be close by. Secondly, it can be assumed that mammalian mothers enjoy the same benefits a human mother does upon consuming her placenta.
There are lots of ways to eat placenta and you can find plenty of recipes on the internet from smoothies to steak to pizza. When Englund prepares placentas for encapsulation she makes a broth based on a Traditional Chinese Medicine recipe. She steams the placenta with two lemons and a large piece of ginger. “The broth is restorative and warming,” she said, “Tasting more like a lemon-ginger broth and clients find it very palatable.” Others have blended their placentas in a blender with a banana and coconut milk and some season the placenta like meat and eat it in tacos or lasagna. The possibilities are endless.
Local midwifery schools typically will accept donated placentas gladly. Midwifery students will get to study the placenta to learn more about how this amazing organ works and gain greater understanding between placental, maternal and infant health. If you are in the Portland area, contact Birthingway College of Midwifery to donate your placenta. If not, click here and here to find a local midwifery school.
Just as the placenta nourishes baby and provides it with oxygen, many use the placenta to do the same for a tree or plant on their property. The placenta is often referred to as the tree of life and physically resemblances the branches and roots of a tree, so this transfer of nutrients to a tree is not surprising. “We have a special tree in a pot that we picked out of the forest when Henry was just a month old,” said Calie Chapman of Sandy, Ore. “When we buy a house I will plant the tree and my youngest placenta underneath.”
While there are still many other ways to honor the placenta after birth, this list is a fair representation of current practices. For mommas planning on homebirth, the attending midwife should be able to help discuss the best options for the placenta and help provide any necessary resources. For out-of-home births, be sure to discuss placenta planning with care providers far in advance of the birth. While the placenta is the property of the mother, many hospitals and some birth centers do not have a protocol for releasing the placenta. PlacentaBenefits.info provides a simple release form for those who may need it.
Special thanks to Amanda Englund of www.placentapower.com for photos and expert knowledge support.