Your placenta. Your choices.

Did you know that the placenta is the only organ in our body that is made to be ‘disposable’? Yes, of course, there are organs that we can live without, but the placenta is the only one that our body ‘disposes of’ when it’s had its use. Created with fertilisation, just as the baby is, it has a lot of very important jobs during pregnancy.

Please note, this image is used for illustration purposes only. We are not suggesting that this is how placenta pills look like.

Please note, this image is for illustration purposes only. We are not suggesting that this is how placenta pills look like.

Did you happen to see any of our #FridayFact ‘Did you know…?’ quotes over on our Facebook MummyNatal page? We have been sharing a few fascinating facts about the placenta – what it does, and why it’s so important for the baby.

When the baby is born, so is the placenta. It’s no longer needed inside mum’s body.

But does this mean that it can no longer help? Should it just be discarded as the ‘disposable’ organ that it is?

Well, not everyone thinks that that’s the case.

There are actually quite a few things that you can choose to do with your placenta, and this blog post is exactly about that.

Now bear with us – we understand that some of these options aren’t for everyone, but we wouldn’t be true to our ethos and doing our job properly if we didn’t tell you about the choices that are available to you.

Half of parenting (if not, ALL of it), is about making informed choices. So here are some options, brought to you by our very own Natal teachers, who are parents just like you, and who decided to exercise their right to do what felt right for them at a particular point in time.

So, without further ado…

MummyNatal founder Steph Beaumont tells us: “The placenta for my fourth baby is in a plant pot under our rosemary plant. I’ll probably plant the next one too!”

Our MummyNatal and BabyNatal teacher Kate, covering Corby, Kettering, Thrapston and Market Harborough tells us: “I decided quite early in my third pregnancy that I wanted to give placenta encapsulation a go. I hoped this would help with energy levels, as once my daughter arrived, I was going to have 3 children under the age of 4. I chose the traditional Chinese medicine method (where the placenta is steamed first) and found that the nearest person who could do this for me was 40 minutes away. I told the midwife at my home birth appointment about this, and she was very supportive. The student midwife who was with her was fascinated and wanted to know everything!

On the day, it was all very easy. My husband sent a message to this lady when labour was established and then after our baby was born. We had to put the placenta in a sterile container in the fridge within 30 minutes of its birth. When I delivered my placenta it was still attached to my daughter, as we waited until the cord had stopped pulsating before cutting it.

The lady came to pick the placenta up that same morning – she was very discreet. She dealt with my husband, congratulated us, had a quick peek at my daughter and left. She didn’t interfere with our family time at all. Two to three days later we received our pills in the post. I had around 200 of them altogether, and I could take 1 to 3 a day. So I took one with each meal until they had all gone.

In all honesty, I don’t know whether having the placenta capsules made a difference, but at the time, I felt it was worth a shot. With my first two children, I took new mum vitamins, and I figured that having my own placenta was a better option.

I’m now expecting my fourth child, and I plan to do the same thing. It’s even better this time though, as I have a friend who’s offering the service and lives a lot closer to me. My friend will also do me a print with the placenta (before encapsulation), as I would love a lasting memory of it. Plus I find that the prints are beautiful.

The placenta is important – it seems a shame to me to just throw it away”.

So, so far we heard about planting the placenta and about encapsulating it with the traditional Chinese medicine method.

As you will have gathered from Kate’s story, encapsulation with this method allows the placenta to be ingested after it has been steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into pills. Traditionally, the pills are taken by the mum and are believed to have numerous health benefits.

Although there aren’t many studies that scientifically prove this, anecdotally, consuming your placenta is meant to:

  • Raise your energy levels (as hinted at by Kate);
  • Increase your breast milk quantity;
  • Level off your hormones, lowering your chances of postpartum depression and insomnia.

And this is exactly why our MummyNatal and BabyNatal teacher Laura, covering Thurrok and Romford, tells us: “I only looked at and took a photo of my placenta with my second daughter, but now that I’m expecting my third child, I’m also hoping to encapsulate it to try and ward off postnatal depression”.

Tori, BabyNatal teacher from Swindon, who also happens to be a fantastic doula tells us: “I had mine encapsulated with my second baby, but I also made a smoothie out of it, and I often make smoothies for clients who hire me as their doula, if and when they request them.placenta smoothie

You use a small piece of raw placenta (about the size of a 50p coin), and you blend it with fruit, yoghurt etc. I have some recipes that I use for these. Mums who take smoothies straight after birth have less issues with iron levels postnatally, and anecdotally, the birthing ‘highs’ seem to last longer.

In my experience, all clients who did this had good milk supply as well. Of course, unfortunately, because most benefits of consuming the placenta after birth are only anecdotal, they are hard to measure.

I had pills made with the placenta from my second baby and took them after I gave birth to my third child, as I couldn’t encapsulate the placenta for that baby. So the placenta capsules I was taking in the postnatal period with my third weren’t made with that baby’s placenta, but I feel that they still helped. I had no day-5 baby blues, I was less tired, and I had plenty of milk!

The placenta has other uses though:

  • You can freeze some to help you with the hormonal changes during menopause.
  • You can ice a piece, clean it up and place it under mum’s tongue straight after the birth to help stop post-partum haemorrhage. I attended a home birth once where this was done, and it really works, as the hormone from the placenta are absorbed into the mum’s bloodstream – this helps the uterus to clamp and help staunch blood flow. Animals eat their placentas after giving birth for the same reasons.
  • You can have a tincture made – I had a tincture made that I used as a homeopathic remedy. I’ve done this with my daughter, and it’s been useful at times of illness, and apparently this can also help her when she starts her periods.”

On top of the uses above, Kate tells us that you can also turn the placenta into a balm, which is meant to be a godsend for nappy rushes!

Don’t you find this totally mind blowing and amazing?!

But Tori isn’t the only one who had a placenta smoothie. Our BabyNatal teacher Mel, covering Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, who is also an amazing doula says: “I didn’t think to see my first in 2007, but when I had my daughter in 2013, I saw the placenta, and I had a raw placenta smoothie. I sent the rest of it off for encapsulation, and I have a lot of doula clients doing this as well”.

However…

Using or consuming the placenta isn’t for everyone.

Our BabyNatal teacher Sara, from West London tells us: “It didn’t even occur to me to have a look at my placenta for my first two sons – let alone doing anything else with it! With my third though, at home, the midwife asked me if I wanted to see the placenta, and I did. I don’t have any photos or any other reminders, and I didn’t consume it either, but I’m glad I did have a look at it”.

Kayleigh, our MummyNatal teacher covering Cobhamm, Esher and Walton-on-Thames says: “I didn’t see mine, and I didn’t want to. I struggle to look at offal, and I can’t touch raw meat, so I asked specifically not to see it. This was because when I was handed out a photo of a placenta as part of my antenatal course, it made my stomach turn!”

Our MummyNatal and BabyNatal teacher Zoe, covering Worthing, tells us: “I wasn’t allowed to see mine following the birth of my son, due to pre-eclampsia. I assume my placenta was tested, but I never followed this up and heard nothing back”.

So, you see? We have a range of teachers here who chose to do (or not do) some very different things with their baby’s placentas! It just goes to show that everyone is different, and just because something may have some great benefits and might feel right to someone, it might not be to someone else. And that’s absolutely fine!

But we hope that you still enjoyed this post and found it as useful and informative as we did!

Did you know how many uses the placenta has? Did you try any of these? Do you know of any others?

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