When I was pregnant with my second baby, I turned to my husband one day and announced, “I think I want to eat my placenta.” I’m pretty sure he gagged a little before he asked, “Okay . . . but why?”
I get it. The thought of eating your placenta is a pretty unsavory idea for most people. Some people even liken it to bordering on cannibalism or voodoo. I have always been a very natural-health-minded mom. I had a natural birth with both of my kids and gave birth to my second in a birthing tub. But when I first heard the idea of placentophagy, the consuming of your placenta, my immediate thought was, Ew, that’s just insane.
But then I started researching it. And what I found out about the benefits of eating your placenta was surprising to me. After months of doing my homework, I knew I wanted to try it, and I am so glad that I did.
Brief History of Placentophagy
Nearly every mammal ingests its placenta after the birth of its young. And while it hasn’t been the “norm” in most recent human cultures, there are many instances where the placenta has been traditionally used or consumed, most often in Asian countries that practice traditional eastern medicine.
These days there has been a bit of resurgence in the idea of a mother eating her placenta, especially in the alternative health arena. While there is limited scientific evidence to support or deny the benefits of placentophagy, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the women who have tried it and swear by it. I am one of those women.
Reasons Why I Ate My Placenta
1. It’s full of good stuff.
- Oxytocin: a powerful hormone that may help to decrease pain, often called the “love hormone.”
- Cortisone: may reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Iron: may help to combat anemia.
- Prostaglandin: may help to return the uterus to its original size.
- Prolactin: may increase milk supply and maternal instinct.
- Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone: may help to regulate hormonal imbalances, mood swings, and insomnia.
2. It helps with breastfeeding.
Studies have shown that consuming your placenta may increase breastmilk production. Other studies have shown that eating your placenta helps to increase the protein in your breastmilk. Since I was attempting to be an exclusively breastfeeding mama, any and all help I could get in the production and quality of my breastmilk was very important to me.
3. It drastically reduced my postpartum depression.
While doing my research, I read many accounts of women who had eaten their placenta to combat postpartum depression (PPD). Since I had a history of severe PPD with my first baby, I was willing to give anything a try to keep it from happening again. I consulted with my midwife about the issue and she agreed that many women she knew had great success using their own placenta to ward off PPD. I decided that, for this reason alone, it was worth looking into.
After my son was born, I had my placenta encapsulated. I took several pills a day until the bottle ran out. During the time I was taking my placenta pills, I had no signs of PPD. I was shocked by how good I felt, to be honest. My pills lasted for three months and I hoped that would be enough. Unfortunately, shortly after I stopped taking my placenta pills, my PPD reared up. I ended up having to seek help for a few months after that. In my experience, my placenta pills worked so well that if I had had the ability to produce and encapsulate another placenta, I would have!
Ways of Eating Your Placenta
There are a variety of ways women choose to consume their placenta. Some women choose to eat it like a prepared meat dish. Others have eaten it raw. Some women blend it into smoothies or add it to other meals. The way I chose to consume my placenta was through placenta encapsulation. In a nutshell, I hired a doula who was experienced in the dehydration and encapsulation of placentas. After my son was born, my doula picked up my placenta and took it to her lab. The next day, she brought me a full bottle of placenta pills, complete with dosing instructions. I took three a day until the pills ran out. However you choose to eat your placenta, just make sure you do your research beforehand and have a plan in place for when your placenta is ready to be “harvested.”
Whether you are for or against this ancient practice, placentophagy definitely has a “cult following” of sorts, and I am happy to be a part of the movement. Have you tried placenta encapsulation or eating your placenta? Would you do it again?