There are a lot of things I find myself doing or contemplating in my pregnancy that I never expected I’d do. A year ago I’d have said “Natural childbirth? Hell no. Sign me up for an elective c-section. I’d like to be able to use my lady parts for recreational purposes again, thanks.”
Now of course through research and talking to others about their experiences I’m coming to realise the wide range of options and philosophies out there and can choose what’s right not just for me but for this very real tiny person I now have to consider as well.
I also sometimes have an aversion to “hippie bullshit” simply because I get enough flack for being vegan that it’s made me a lot more scientifically minded. I need a lot of facts and evidence to back up my claims.
So when I first heard about placenta encapsulation and consumption my immediate reaction was, “Why the f*** would anyone do that?” But then I started reading about it more and more in blog posts, and meeting real life people who’d done it. Anecdotally the experiences ranged from “It’s a nice pick-me-up” to “It saved my sanity, every mum should do this!”
So why do people do this, and what’s involved?
Humans are one of the only mammals that don’t eat their own placenta after birth. Not that I take all my medical advice from the animal kingdom, but that certainly is an intriguing factoid. Even herbivorous animals do it. The idea is that the placenta contains all the hormones and nutrients that nourished your baby in the womb, and that these health benefits can pass back on to the mother. Specifically, it’s said to help manage pain relief after giving birth, give an iron boost (which considering all that blood loss is much needed), can help with lactation and help mums cope with post-natal depression – a far too common condition in Australia.
As someone who’s been prone to bouts of depression, but never wanted to use medication to regulate it, this greatly intrigued me. I haven’t found a lot of research on the subject, but there are some studies out there that discuss placentophagy:
My slightly more skeptical husband asked if it might all just be placebo effect. That’s certainly possible. But here’s the thing, placebo or not, if it’s going to result in putting me in a more positive state, what’s the harm in trying? So I asked around for more info and got a referral to a doula who offers the encapsulation service for just $150! I was envisioning thousands of dollars but that is really not a lot of money to spend on inmproving the mental health of a new mum.
So my next step is to discuss it with a midwife and the OB that my birth centre requires I meet once. My appointment is on 12 April so if I’m given the green light I’m going to go for it, and will write more about the process of how you arrange this.
One last point to address though: the ick factor. As someone who’s not eaten meat in over 11 years I’ll admit to some squeamishness. But let’s be clear, I’m not going to be cooking up placenta lasagne. (Yes, that’s a real thing. No, don’t click it if you have a weak stomach.) If that’s your bag, then great. But taken in pill form, it’s dehydrated into a powder that won’t resemble meat in any way.
What confuses me is the mainstream aversion to this. A story came out about Mad Men actress January Jones consuming her placenta that made the rounds all over the internet. The commenters even on progressive sites like Jezebel were snarky and/or disgusted. But here’s the thing. Most people eat meat from other animals. Many eat organ meat. Even more consume animal breast milk. So why is it gross when it comes from a human? It doesn’t get more ethical than me giving consent for a product of myself to be eaten by myself.
It’s simply a matter of, one’s been accepted and normalised by society, and one’s not.
So I guess I’m doing my part to normalise this. Yeah, I’m gonna eat my placenta. Why the f*** not?