By Megan Powell
“I just ate my placenta.”
The words popped up on my Facebook newsfeed recently, from a friend who had given birth just days earlier.
She is one of the growing number of women who are choosing to ingest their placenta post-birth, whether it be in pill form (called encapsulation) or straight up, in a smoothie or food concoction.
I had been curious about this trend ever since I’d read that many women refer to it as the wonder remedy for post-partum depression.
Among its touted benefits are also an increase in milk supply and energy, a quicker recovery, and help with post-partum pain relief. Sounds pretty good to me.
Plus, it's not too difficult. If you have the funds (normally around $250-$300), doulas often offer encapsulation service. That way someone else deals with it and you just consume (literally) the benefits.
Some women choose to encapsulate it themselves, which is obviously more work.
Other women choose to just straight up eat it (after washing it and removing membranes), by putting it in a smoothie and blending it up, or even eating it in a meal, like lasagna.
Placenta tacos, anyone?
The science, though
Humans are actually one of the few mammals that DON’T each their placenta. So in a way, it makes sense that we would eventually start gravitating toward this practice, which is the norm to so many other mammals.
The only problem I found is that there is limited evidence to back up any claims. So while anyone you talk to who has consumed it might praise its benefits, there haven’t been any thorough studies to prove it actually does what it says.
That isn’t to say it’s not true, it’s just that science and medical studies can’t back up the claims on this one. At least not yet.
I’m sure more and more studies will start coming out since this is becoming a more common occurrence. Some celebrities have even started jumping on the placenta encapsulation bandwagon.
When I did my research, I discovered that there are actually a number of local businesses and doulas in my own medium-sized city that offer placenta encapsulation services. Most would get it back to me within a couple of days and the price really isn’t too bad. Especially if it does what it’s supposed to.
The tree tribute
Still, after really thinking about it, I’ve decided it’s not for me. I’m really intrigued and I understand why women consume their placentas (I was tempted) but in the end, I’ve decided that we’ll do what we did with our first-born: plant a placenta tree.
Have you ever actually looked at a placenta up close? It’s an amazing thing. A self-sustaining organ that grows in a woman’s body for the sole purpose of providing life and nutrients to a growing human. It’s incredible, really.
And it actually has the appearance of a tree, with all its roots/membranes showing where it gave life to the baby. After the birth of my son at the end of a very hot July, we kept it in a container in the freezer for about a year until planting it.
I can’t lie, I forgot it was there and more than once went to grab some “cherry frozen yogurt” only to find it wasn’t frozen yogurt at all. Once spring hit, we dug a deep hole, placed the placenta in it and planted an indigenous tree over top.
It’s been said that because of the abundance of nutrients and oxygen contained in the placenta, that anything planted on it will grow lush and bountiful.
So far the tree is doing well. For this next baby, we plan to do the same—plant it under a local tree or plant of some kind and watch it do its thing. For me, this is what works best and what I prefer—to watch it continue giving life to something else. I love that idea.
I also feel fortunate that I have the ability to even do this. I think the vast majority of women who give birth have no idea what happens to their placenta, and probably many more never even get a good glimpse of this awesome organ. Women who give birth at home are the exception, as it is their responsibility to dispose of the placenta, which is considered toxic waste. It makes me a bit sad to think of all those placentas in the hospital just disposed of along with medication and other hazardous waste though, when they could be doing something far more useful, like helping grow plants and trees!
Many women might not even realize that they do have the option to keep the placenta if they wish. While every hospital differs on its placenta policy, if you’re thinking you want to bring yours home from the hospital, it’s a good idea to look into it ahead of time to see if it’s possible. It’s not for everyone, but knowing what options you have, if any, is always good.
While ingesting my placenta might not be for me (this time anyway), I do think it’s a pretty cool option to have. There are also apparently other things you can do with your placenta other than eat it or plant it, but the idea of a placenta teddy bear on my dresser kind of creeps me out a bit.
Adding on to my to-do list this week is making sure we have a good-sized container for the placenta. Only this time, we’ll be planting it almost right away since this baby will be born in the spring. Perfect timing, baby. Now, to decide what to plant over top of it…
Follow along as Megan Powell prepares for her second baby—due this spring—while chasing her energetic 3-year-old and trying to squeeze in bathroom breaks and naps. Megan also mixes a mean –and placenta-free– smoothie at henfamily.com