All Sorts of Things To Do With That Placenta After Birth

By Heather on March 11th 2012
Birth Tree, Placenta TreeMy partner and I took a long road trip to visit friends in the south of Chile last week. They live in the country surrounded by dairy farms and sprouting fields. We visited one of the farms to buy some of their great cheese and enjoyed the fields filled with pasturing cows. Apparently as part of maintaining a good standard of living for their cows, dairy farmers in Chile support natural birth, too. I say this because right there near the edge of the pasture close to the milk processing building we visited was a shaky newborn calf with its mama. It wobbled and lay, wobbled and lay, while mama happily chewed on the placenta lying in the grass.

This was a really sweet sight, especially after the conversation we had just had with family friends we were staying with about how they planted the placenta of their now six-month-old baby girl in a flower bed outside the window of the room of her natural home birth.

Inspired by these and other recent discoveries on my path towards my own first baby’s birth (and afterbirth), I’ve pulled together a short list of things people are doing with their placentas these days. Many traditions new and old reflect the placenta’s special relationship with the child, some seeing the placenta as the baby’s twin soul, as well as its unique and potent healing and nutritional benefits. Enjoy!

  • Practicing extended placenta attached, i.e. umbilical nonseverance, i.e. Lotus Birth. There’s a small but passionate community of parents and supporters that believe in the baby’s spiritual and emotional connection with the placenta, and the health benefits of keeping it attached until the cord falls off naturally (while caring well for it in the approximate three days that takes). Read more about Lotus Birth.

  • Burying the placenta. Whether under a well-rooted or new “birth tree”, in the garden, in a holy site, or elsewhere, there are lots of traditional cultural examples for placenta burial, and modern-day families carry on many of these traditions. Read more about placenta burial practices.

  • Making placenta prints. Whether for your baby book or an intriguing piece of wall art, there are some pretty neat examples online of moms taking blood or paint prints from their and their baby’s placenta. Read one mom’s placenta print story and get links to more examples.

  • Eating the placenta, or placentophagy as it is officially called. Some like it fried, some (like my aforementioned mama cow friend) take it raw, some keep it in the fridge nine days cold (tee hee). Of course we have lots of examples in nature for this, and many cultural traditions as well, but the reported benefits go beyond eating placenta for tradition’s sake alone. Reported benefits include easing “baby blues” and helping increase a mother’s milk supply while giving her an extra boost of energy. Read more about eating placenta.

  • Taking placenta medicine, aka placenta encapsulation. Asian cultures have long used dried placenta as medicine to increase health and vitality. Modern methods of placenta encapsulation (often by certified placenta encapsulation specialists, don’t you know) offer mothers a way to receive the reported benefits of ingesting the placenta without undertaking the task of eating it, as well as providing an easy long-term consumption option. Watch here for more about placenta encapsulation:




 

While I’m not completely on board with a full Lotus Birth yet, I’m definitely considering it as an option as a step beyond delayed cord severance. I’m going to play that one by intuition and inspiration, though. My partner and I are definitely excited about planting a tree for our baby with the part of the placenta that I don’t choose to ingest either raw, cooked or dried in pill form. I guess you could say I’m going all routes on this one… except the printmaking, I think. I’m not quite ready for blood-ink afterbirth art, but that’s just me!

Want to learn more about the placenta in general, how it forms and functions, and read more about placenta traditions? I liked this article at mothering.com called The Amazing Placenta.

If there’s anything you’ve done with your and your baby’s placenta, or are planning to, that is not on my list, or special experiences with those that are, we’d love to have you share with us in the comments.