Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You Gonna Eat That?

I've put this post off for a long time and I finally feel comfortable sharing it because, let's face it, it really isn't all that shocking compared to some topics I've tackled on this blog.  My hubs looks positively green whenever I bring it up and he's one of the most strong-stomached people I know so be forewarned that this post might gross you out.  I hope there are at least a couple people still reading after that warning!  Here goes:

I want to eat my placenta.  om, nom, nom

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  Get out all the yuks (and yucks) and maybe you'll change your mind about placentophagy (eating placenta) after you finish reading this post.  If nothing else, by keeping an open mind and reading on you might learn a few things that you didn't already know.

No, I don't want to eat it right now because that would be just totally crazy.  But I do want to eat my placenta after I deliver my baby.  Yes, I just said that I want to eat an organ from my own body.  No, I don't see anything particularly crazy about the idea.  Yes, I'll explain why I want to consume this very special organ.

Does the thought of placentophagy totally creep you out?  I can understand that because the notion of noshing on a thick slab of bloody & pulsing placenta is pretty gross to me too.  Let me be clear that I don't want to take a big ol' meaty bite on the delivery table/operating table/wherever I happen to be when it exits my body.  I also don't want to make placenta lasagna, placenta burgers, or placenta shakes.  I'm only a little bit of a hippie and the thought of preparing it to consume in that fashion is a little icky to me too.

I do want to hire someone to steam it, dry it, pulverize it, and encapsulate it for me to take over a period of time in the least-gross way imaginable.  The way I see it, almost anything is palatable if it's in a capsule because your senses are disengaged from the material contained within.  You won't have to see or feel the bloody mess, you won't have to smell or taste anything that might be kinda off-putting, and you won't have to hear it throbbing.  Okay, okay, I'm totally joking about the last one!  But I'm absolutely not joking about my intention, which is to ingest my placenta.

Are you thinking that chowing down on placenta is something that some annoying hippies made up in recent years because they delight in grossing out the mainstream public?  Do you think there can't possibly be any reason for a woman to ingest her placenta?  Do you believe that modern medicine has a better answer than placentophagy?

Placentophagy is practiced by most mammals (some accounts say "all," but I thought I'd use less absolute terms) and many primates.  It's been practiced in many human cultures for centuries.  Some traditional cultures practice placentophagy to this day and, gasp, even women in industrialized countries are eagerly embracing placentophagy once they learn of the benefits.

I'm interested in eating my placenta because it's high hormone content is thought to help ward off the baby blues and postpartum depression.  Thanks to oxytocin levels found in the placenta, it can help stem postpartum hemorrhaging by helping the uterus clear itself out.  Additionally, there is some evidence that it helps improve lactation as well.

Sounds like an awesome thing, right?  So what's the downside?  Uh, dude, you'll have to ingest a placenta to enjoy those incredible benefits.

I can only speak for myself, but I found the postpartum hormone crash to be incredibly hard to handle and I would definitely be interested in gently weaning myself off those massive amounts of pregnancy hormones - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.  Also, I bleed like a mo-fo (over six-weeks straight of HEAVY bleeding after my son's birth) and that benefit appeals to me too - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.  Though I eventually ended up with a great breastfeeding relationship and an enviable milk supply, I struggled with breastfeeding in the early weeks with my son and I'd be interested in avoiding a rough start with this baby - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.

Look, early motherhood is HARD and I will explore any option that might make life a little easier for me in those earliest days with a a newborn.  Your hormones are all out of whack, you have gobs of blood flooding your britches for weeks on end, and you have a brand new little baby to care for and love.  I almost feel overwhelmed just reading about it because I know what it was like for me.

I found that caring for my newborn was exhausting because I didn't get more than three hours of sleep at a stretch for around five months.  Add that lack of sleep to the hormone crash and the heavy blood flow and it's no wonder that I was exhausted, isolated, and didn't feel like myself for MONTHS after my son was born.  Some mothers appear to just handle it and get on with life right away.  I was not that kind of mother. 

The bottom line is this:  If ingesting a little placenta will help avoid all that pain and suffering, I'll go ahead and ingest placenta.  Heck, I would take that big ol' meaty bite if that was what was required!

My husband is skeptical that placentophagy is worthwhile.  His feelings are that modern science can come up with ways to do all that placentophagy is purported to do for a new mother.  I do believe in modern medicine and am not interested in slamming the White Coats, but I can't ignore the fact that modern science has yet to develop a formula that has the same beneficial composition as human breastmilk.  So why should I believe that they can come up with a way to give the benefits of placentophagy to a new mother?  It's impossible because it's such a highly individualized item.

Get that?  They can't make a formula that's identical in composition to breastmilk because breastmilk is not the same for every woman - heck, it's not even the same at the beginning and end of the same nursing session.  They can't duplicate the benefits found in consuming the placenta because each placenta is different!  My placenta will have a different mix of hormones than yours and, just like breastmilk, mine is tailored just for me (and my baby).

Have you ever ingested placenta?  How did you prepare it for consumption?  Did you notice any difference before and after ingestion?  Would you recommend it to other mothers?  Also, if you can, please share the experiences of other mothers you know who have practiced placentophagy.

* * *

I'm going to end with a dorky little joke that I thought of while writing this post.

Q:  What did the placenta say to the new mother?
A:  Eat me!

No worries, I won't be quitting my day job to embark on a not-very-lucrative comedy career.


  1. I have a referral if you need one! :)

  2. Awesome! It's a few months away (duh!) and I don't know if Kaiser will let me take it, but I'll take your info!