Top 10 Reasons To Eat Your Placenta

March 29, 2012

My friend emailed me the other day, as my friends often do, asking if I’d heard of the latest weird health trend:

“You didn’t eat your placenta did you? I am just reading about January Jones doing that. Dude, i have seen that thing up close and personal and I just don’t think I could do that.”

Um. Well, the short answer is no. I didn’t.

The long answer?

My birth plan included saving my placenta for encapsulation, just like January Jones. My midwife would simply take it, put it on ice, and get it to a woman who does the encapsulation for a fairly reasonable fee. (That means she’d dry it out, grind to a powder and fill capsules for me to take.)

I’d actually never heard of it until my midwife brought it up. She said that it often gave postpartum women more energy, helped them feel happier and staved off postpartum depression. Also, the placenta is full of iron, which women definitely need after pregnancy and childbirth. I must have given her a very strange look, but took the brochure home, totally expecting my husband to balk at the idea. When I told him that it could keep me from going batshit insane, he eagerly nodded his head, “Do it, definitely do it.”

Well, I figured, it couldn’t hurt. I trusted my midwife and if she thought there were possible helpful side effects, then I believed her. Plus, I was damn curious about the whole thing. And why not? The only good reason I had for not encapsulating my placenta was the “ick” factor.

Frankly, a placenta falls in the category of real, whole food. Much more so than, say…Doritos. Which are neither real or whole, and we eat them without a second thought.

Hmmm.

As I counted down to my due date, I was still pretty weirded out by the idea. But I learned that most mammals eat their own placentas, so there is a pretty good chance that this is the natural, normal thing to do. Why would an animal eat the placenta if it weren’t beneficial?

So, judge me if you want, but since I do have a tendency towards anxiety and depression I thought this was a pretty good idea.

Unfortunately, my birth plans went awry when my son decided to stay put until 42 weeks. We ditched our homebirth plans and after an unmedicated 24 hours of labor, Danny was finally born via c-section. Since I had not at all planned on being in a hospital, I asked between contractions if they could still save my placenta. Happily, the hospital agreed.

But as I recently shared in this article, I never got my placenta. Virginia Hospital Center put it in their morgue for safekeeping and required us to hire an undertaker to retrieve it, at the cost of about $400. They gave us a list of funeral homes to call.

So in the first precious days of my son’s life, my husband was on the phone trying to get a funeral home to send someone to the hospital and retrieve my personal property.

They wouldn’t do it. They had never heard of such a thing. We went back and forth for a few days as I healed from my c-section, calling and returning calls and waiting for calls back. Kind of depressing, to call a funeral home and say, “Hi, I just had a baby…no, no, the baby is fine…”

About a week later we did find a company willing to help us out. I suddenly wondered…is my placenta even still good? Has it spoiled?

Yep. For the record, your placenta should be refrigerated and encapsulated within 24 hours, or it should be frozen. This probably goes without saying, but should not be preserved it in formaldehyde either.

Mine was refrigerated, and I hadn’t known to request anything different. They probably don’t even have a freezer in the morgue. Who knows. The whole thing was just stupid. I wish they’d have just said, no, we can’t save your placenta for you.

As you may know, I did experience postpartum depression. To this day I wonder if that placenta could have made a difference.

So to all the people making fun of January Jones, here are my…

Top 10 Reasons To Eat Your Placenta:

1. Beats the hell out of Zoloft
Yeah, no one bats an eye when a women starts taking Zoloft to combat postpartum depression. It’s a man made pharmaceutical. Completely unnatural. Sure there are studies that say it’s safe and effective. But you know why there are no studies like that about placentas? Because there’s no money to be made.

2. Everyone’s doing it
Like I said, it’s very common for mammals to consume their own placenta. If all mammals carry and nurse their babies then maybe we should take a cue from them. And people do it too. I wanted to do it. Just because you never heard of it until now doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

3. It’s real, and it’s whole
Which is more than I can say for half the crap most people eat everyday. I’d eat 3 placentas before I’d eat a Lean Cuisine.

4. Your post-baby body is kind of a wreck
Yeah…things are kind of weird after having a baby. Physically, emotionally, you name it. During this huge transition if there is anything you can do to help, I say – do it.

5. It’s not expensive
At least, I don’t think it should be. Your placenta comes free of charge (except at Virginia Hospital Center…) and encapsulation was going to run me $150.

6. It gives you energy
Many moms report a significant boost of energy from their “happy pills.” That sounds like heaven to this mom, who dragged through the first 6 months of Danny’s life.

7. It’s been celebrated for thousands of years
Many cultures have ceremonies and rituals surrounding the placenta. Why? There must be some traditional understanding of its power.

8. Tastes great in a smoothie
Ok, ok I’m kidding. But seriously if you don’t want to get it encapsulated, you can totally just…eat it. Some people say it’s even more nutritious when taken raw. So, blend it up?

9. Freak out your friends
Hey, nothing makes for a good conversation starter than, “So I was eating my placenta yesterday…” or “Care for some placenta?”

10. Why the hell not?
It won’t hurt. It might help. And let me tell you, there are many things about childbirth and motherhood that are much more gross.

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