Monday, August 10, 2009

Placentophagy: The Next Step Into the Madness

Well, here it is! The issue that divides even the crunchiest of crunchies. Let's get started.

First of all, what is placentophagy? Quite simply, it is the consuming of the placenta after birth. (Pause for mass gagging.) Moving on...

How did I get to this dark, dark place? Good question! Immersion in the natural birth community does many odd things to an ordinary woman. With our last birth, I didn't even think about it - I just told our midwife to take the placenta away and get rid of it. (If we'd had a yard I might have considered burying it, but it's kind of hard to bury a placenta in 15 square feet of apartment patio concrete.)

But by the time this pregnancy rolled around, I'd been immersed in the natural birth community for 2+ years, and I had learned considerably more about the placenta and about options for using it. And so the madness began...

First of all, I considered a lotus birth, in which the cord is never cut - the placenta is swaddled and kept with the baby until the cord falls off naturally (usually within the first week). I thought about it for a while, but eventually discarded the idea for two reasons: (1) The postpartum period is one of extreme exhaustion, and adding placenta-care into the mix didn't sound particularly appealing (the placenta requires basic care to keep it from rotting), and (2) I realized that lotus birth is not particularly "natural" in keeping with the ways of the animal kingdom - I mean, how many baby animals have you seen that are walking around with their placentas trailing behind them? It doesn't happen. The natural thing that many mammals do is simply to chew through the cord... and then to eat the placenta!

And so I reached the next natural phase of thought - okay, why not? I mean, it's not really that gross. It's not like you can catch a disease from it, or like it's unnatural - it is an extremely common occurrence in the wild. And, being in the birth community, I'd already heard of it. So off I went to consult with a midwife friend! She told me that at least 25% of her clients consume some portion of their placentas, either raw in a berry smoothie (to disguise the taste) or dried and encapsulated.

So, never being one to know moderation, I am planning to do both! I'll post about how it goes. Frankly, I think it'll be great. The placenta is full of both nutrients and beneficial hormones, and I think it'll be a big help, especially as I tend to struggle with fatigue.

DH required a few minutes of convincing, but thankfully he's the tractable type when it comes to my birthing ideas. Most likely he'll become just as much of a hard-core placentophagy-fan as he is now a homebirth-fan! (Often overheard from hubbie: "Well, she wouldn't have had the cesarean if she'd just had a homebirth!" Pretty cool, no?)

I have heard two arguments against placentophagy that I'd like to briefly answer:

(1) Placentophagy is done by animals only because the placenta is a good source of calories and shouldn't be wasted by animals when food is scarce - for a well-nourished animal or woman, it's not necessary.

Frankly.... No. Nature has better plans than that, and the fact that the placenta is pumped full of hormones seems like a part of God's plan to get said hormones into said animal - i.e. there is a purpose for everything. It's rather arrogant to assume that the consumption of a placenta has no purpose other than caloric intake without further research.

(2) Placentophagy is merely an animal's attempt to clear the evidence of birth away so that predators won't smell it and come looking for easy prey.

That makes even less sense. Regardless of whether the placenta is left behind, it is not possible for any animal to clear away all of the scent left by blood, amniotic fluid, and little wet animals rolling around on the forest floor following birth! Not possible.


Anyhow, I'll let you know how it goes! Has anyone else tried this? Did it help? Let me know!! :)


  1. Well if my doctor took out my liver... I wouldn't eat it. To each their own! It'll be interesting to hear how it goes!!! You're brave.

  2. I've heard of it, and thought about doing it for my next... you'll definitely have to let us know how it goes


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