Placenta: Treasure or Litter?
A baby is never born alone. With it, comes the placenta - a second birth which occurs right after the baby’s, and unfortunately a very neglected and important part of the birth story. We can only say that labour has officially ended when the placenta is born - not the baby itself. The placenta is vital to creating and sustaining human life, it is the interface between mother and child, and in many cultures it is considered sacred. Every single person on Earth has lived with one for 9 months, so how come we know so little of it?
Among the placenta’s many incredible and unique functions are:
It is also the only temporary organ developed in adulthood, and the only one that does not share the host’s DNA, but rather shares the same DNA as the baby. This would make the placenta the child’s “twin”, so to speak, and maybe that is one of the reasons why it has been used in rituals and consecrated in different cultures across the globe. Some believe it to be an angel that protects the baby, or that it represents the child’s roots so it should be buried or planted with a tree, while others use it as an amulet or as a medicinal compound. There are countless traditions surrounding the placenta across millennia, and until very recently, with the advance of modern medicine, it was still very respected and revered after the child was born. Nowadays, it is usually thrown away, discarded as hospital waste.
We do know that even after birth, the placenta is still rich in vitamins, minerals, hormones and stem cells. One of the safest ways the placenta can be of use is by preserving placental tissue through a stem cell bank, since these stem cells can treat diseases and conditions throughout the child’s life. Still, you only need a small portion of blood and tissue to store in a stem cell bank, and that means the rest of it would be thrown away - unless you decide to do something different.
As you may have heard, placenta consumption (in capsules or in smoothies, for example) has become increasingly popular. It may seem like an otherworldly act to ingest your own placenta, but it is actually nearly omnipresent among mammals, both carnivores and herbivores. Out of all the over 4000 species of terrestrial mammals, only those of the camel family do not ingest their placentas after giving birth. Although there is little scientific evidence regarding the benefits of consuming your own placenta, those who have tried it usually testify that they feel more energy, less stress, have an easier time breast/chest-feeding, present more immunity, and fewer occurrences of baby blues and even postpartum depression.
If it feels like too much, that’s ok - I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and there are definitely situations where ingesting your placenta could be harmful to you and your baby. There are other ways you can honor the placenta:
Any contact you can have with your placenta is already therapeutic, even if you can’t take it home due to medical reasons. Look at it, touch it if you want, thank it for protecting and serving you and your baby. This can make such a huge difference in your postpartum, helping you get a sense of closure and healing from any trauma along your journey.
Full Circle offers consultations in placenta services and can help you in figuring out the best way for you to benefit from its properties. Contact us to find out more.
Placenta Medicine Manual - Daniela Paz Salinas, 2017
Influencia de la Reincorporación Oral de la Placenta (ROP) Autóloga Tras el Parto en la Evolución Bioquímica Sanguínea y Láctea - Sergio L Sanchez Suarez, 2015
Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra - Robin Lim, 2014
Placenta: The Gift of Life - Cornelia Enning, 2007
Estudio Bromatológico de la Placenta Humana - Sergio Sánchez Suarez, 2003
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