Hey Laura, Should I Eat my Placenta?!
In a word: YES.
In several more words: Why not? It probably can’t hurt, and it might really help you!
I am a huge, huge proponent of postpartum placentophagy, based on my own experience with it after my second birth.
The proposed benefits of placentophagy that are most often listed are:
- accelerated milk production
- faster healing
- reduced hormonal mood swings
- increased energy
- reduced postpartum bleeding
- preventative for baby blues and PPD
This is going to be a link-free post, because there’s no substantial scientific research on human placentophagy. However, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive. Yes, you’ll find sensationalized anti-placenta articles here and there (aiming more to gross you out than to inform), but if you Google around and search discussion forums, you’ll read a lot of positive experiences.
My positive experience with placentophagy
I had severe (and undiagnosed) PPD and PTSD after my first child was born. The depression set in even before she was even delivered; I saw the darkness closing in on me and felt like I should just give up and die already - it was all I could do to even push her out. After she was born, she screamed almost nonstop for about 4 months due to undiagnosed multiple food protein sensitivities. Suffice it to say, even after 6 years, I still have to steel myself against a mental breakdown when I hear that kind of uncontrollable crying from a baby!
So, when I was pregnant with #2, I started researching postpartum depression and natural ways to combat it. I was willing to go the prescription drug route if necessary, but I wanted to know if there was anything else available; I knew I’d be breastfeeding and I’m not a fan of heavy duty drugs passing into my baby’s system (let alone my own!).
That’s when I stumbled upon the concept of eating one’s placenta. I was impressed with the body of anecdotal evidence I found - it was consistent and not overblown. Most of it was from women just like me: second-time moms who had suffered with depression their first time around, looking for a non-pharmaceutical preventative to their postpartum trauma.
I figured: It can’t hurt. And if it doesn’t work for me, I can try something different. But I’ve at least got to give it a try.
I informed my parents that I was putting them in charge of my placenta encapsulation after my second baby was born. Since my dad’s a biologist and my mom’s a nurse, they weren’t too squeamish about it! (Besides, they were hippie parents and planted trees over my and my brother’s placentas!)
My mom researched the various methods for preparing a placenta for consumption, and chose the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach that steams the placenta with ginger, dehydrates, and encapsulates it.
I gave birth in a free standing birth center, so it was no trick to get my placenta into my parents’ possession (it can be, with hospital regulations). The afternoon after I gave birth, they took my placenta home with them to prepare it, while I took my baby home. Less than 18 hours after giving birth, I was taking my first placenta capsule.
My milk was fully in and gushing within 8 hours of that first dose. My midwife was amazed!
The most significant thing I noticed was the mood regulation. If you’ve given birth before, you may remember the postpartum crashes on days 3 and 10. They were super gnarly for me the first time around. With my placentophagy postpartum, I breezed right through. I had to increase my dosage on those days, though! I could feel my emotions taking a nosedive, and within 20 minutes of taking a couple capsules, I could feel myself normalizing again.
I never even had the “baby blues,” let alone the full fledged depression of the first postpartum period.
Was it a placebo effect?
Who the heck cares?! It worked for me; it’s worked for many other women; it might work for you as well. It costs around $150-200 to have someone encapsulate your placenta (it’s really not something you want to be bothering with right after birth, and requires some slightly specialized equipment; if you can afford it, hire the work out!).
For such a small investment, isn’t it worth a try?