If you’re pregnant, I’m curious to know if you’ve considered what you placenta is doing at the moment, and if or what you plan to do with it after?
I know some of you are going be thinking ‘what is she on about – DOING with it?!’ but I wanted to talk today about some of the options you have, because you only know what you know!
I’ll start at the beginning, what is the placenta? The placenta is a foetal organ which becomes the bridge between you and your baby, performing various duties to help your baby grow. It keeps your blood separate from your baby’s, yet allows vital nutrients, oxygen and carbon dioxide, to pass through helping your body to perform the functions your baby cannot yet do for himself. These nutrients and gasses pass through from your blood stream, into the placenta, which then carries them to baby via the umbilical cord which connects them. Waste products are then passed back through the cord to the placenta, for you to dispose of – all without you ever needing to think about it. Isn’t that amazing?!
The placenta also performs other functions such as helping regulate baby’s temperature, producing hormones which help your baby to grow, and in the later stages of pregnancy passing on immunity from you to your baby to offer them protection in the early months. At the end of pregnancy, after your baby is born, it will separate from your uterus ready to be expelled, by this time it will weigh an impressive half a kilo on average.
So after it has been birthed what are you going to do with this incredible organ? Did you know there were options for this question?! Let’s go through a few and you can see how you feel about each one:
For some families it feels right to avoid cutting the cord, to allow baby to remain attached to his placenta until it naturally dries and separates. This obviously comes with both advantages and disadvantages, apart from the obvious benefit of baby receiving their full blood volume, pro’s include the feeling of offering a gentle natural transition into life without it, mum and baby resting more as movement is less easy, and (almost certainly!) ensuring baby is handled minimally by visitors in the early days. Con’s include the need to carry a bowl with a placenta in everywhere baby goes requiring extra hands and the potential for smell or infection, although thorough washing followed by using salt and antibacterial herbs such as lavender are said to reduce this risk.
The placenta can make for incredible artwork! The veins running through it and the umbilical cord make for a beautiful ‘tree of life’ style print if that’s your vibe. I kinda wish I’d done this with mine now, but it doesn’t feel like quite good enough a reason for a third baby…
Umbilical Cord Keepsakes
Bet you didn’t know you could shape and dry your baby’s umbilical cord to keep forever?! Me either till I saw Keri’s heart shaped keepsake from baby Rory (probably far more hygienic than my keepsake of a stump attached to a cord tie, pretty gross I know, but I can’t bear to throw either of them away!).
Placenta Smoothies or Pills
Yep. You read that right! A small chunk of fresh raw placenta can be blended up in a smoothie for new mums to consume, or the placenta cam be steamed, dried and ground up to make pills! People choose to consume their placenta for various reasons – some supporting arguments include it being an iron rich organ which may be helpful in replenishing iron stores post birth, that mammals in the wild usually consume theirs so it may be a biologically normal process, and that there are other reported benefits to new mothers which may include:
- Reduced bleeding after birth (in fact an old school ‘fix’ for haemorrhages was to pop a piece of placenta between the cheek and teeth!)
- Provides the body with vitamins and nutrients
- Provides a boost of energy
- Reduces the chance of the ‘baby blues’ or postnatal depression
- Kickstarting or increasing milk supply
There are also arguments against it including that mammals likely consume it to reduce the risk of attracting predators to their young – a risk humans do not usually have to consider! As well as reported concerns about consuming the placenta, especially raw:
- It could be hard to keep it ‘food safe’ meaning there is a risk of infection
- You may dislike the taste or thought of it
- There are reports that it actually inhibits milk supply as the hormones it contains are those of pregnancy not lactation
There has been no good quality research into the risks or benefits of consuming your placenta, and as there is little money to be made from placenta consumption for drug companies, its unlikely there ever will be. There is however a tonne of anecdotal evidence and support for both sides of the argument available online. I would suggest you do your own reading and come to your own conclusion about it!
From people I know who have gone for it I have learned:
- Adding berries to the smoothie is an essential for masking the colour!
- The pills can be stored and consumed at a much later point
- Whether the benefits are real or placebo, for many they seem highly effective!
So how do you feel about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you’ve any research to support either side please send it my way!
P.S Remember if you are 20+ weeks pregnant and looking for a non-biased antenatal and hypnobirthing birth prep, our next group course runs on 7th & 14th April, offering information and tools to support any kind of birth you are aiming for – for more info head here, or to book on head here.