Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Things to do with a placenta!

Posted on: January 21, 2012

Another guest blog by Sarah Ward … thanks Sarah.

The placenta is the fetal life support system, but can also become more than this, and is a powerful symbol that many believe deserves some respect when it has fulfilled its main aim. 

A new TV programme on Channel 4 called ‘How to be a Good Mum’ made me decide to do a topic on placentas. I tend to hate programs like this because they always portray what can be reasonably sensible well thought out ideas, throw them all together and turn them into a program designed to shock and mock anything mildly different from the perceived ‘norm’.

The first episode showed a lady making a print from her placenta in quite gory horror style detail. Each to their own maybe, but here are some ideas I found on the internet!

1. Plant It! 

The most obvious and common thing to do with a placenta (after throwing it out that is) is to plant it in the garden or a pot.  Sometimes this is done as part of a ceremony, naming day, with friends, family or just a personal thing done without announcement, just to show respect to the thing that nourished and fed your unborn baby for all those months.  Maybe to throw it out seems in some way disrespectful after all its hard work?

2. Print From It!

This is easier than it sounds.  It can be frozen for some time, defrosted, washed, dried and the side closest to the baby including the cord can be inked and printed to look like a tree, with all the veins looking like branches.  They can be quite beautiful.  They can also be printed from soon after birth using the blood left within it to make the print.

3.  Encapsulate It!

There are many practitioners that will encapsulate your placenta for you.  This basically involves mulching it up, drying it out and turning it into a powder form that’s put into tablet capsules for you to take.  The benefits are said to be that it can balance your hormones in the weeks and months after birth, increase your milk supply and quality, and increase energy.  Its been reported to decrease the risks of developing post natal depression also. In fact it’s not a new idea, its been a traditional Chinese medicine practise for centuries.  This needs to be done within 48 hours after birth.

4.  Ingest It!

Ok, I mean Eat IT! The benefits are the same as above but you could do this yourself at home and not need anyone to help you. I think most people are generally aghast at this idea, but it’s not so uncommon in other parts of the world. In fact there are many rituals and ceremonies that involve this, and are a way of welcoming the new baby into the community and celebrating its safe arrival. If you google this subject you can find many recipes and ideas from simple smoothies to bolognaise!

In fact MOST mammals eat their own placenta and the benefits are said to be that it encourages milk production, and encourages the uterus to shrink down after birth. 

5.  Burn it!

Some cultures burn the placenta in a clay pot and then bury the ashes.

6. Make a Teddy!

Artist Alex Green set off a media storm after his Placenta Bear went on display at the ‘Doing it for the Kids’ exhibition.  He explained:

“The goal of the exhibition is to inspire designers, educators and parents to be more critical of the toys that shape a child’s values and the impact toy making has on the environment.”

7. Other Cultures Do This!

In Yemen the placenta is placed on the family’s roof for the birds to eat, in the hope that it will guarantee the love between the parents.

In Malaysia the placenta is seen as the child’s older sibling and thought that the two are reunited at death. The midwife carefully washes the placenta, cord and membranes and wraps them in a white cloth to be buried.

In Nepal, the placenta is given the name ‘bucha-co-satthi’ – meaning ‘baby’s friend’

The Tanala people of Madagascar observe strict silence throughout the labour and birth and as the placenta is being delivered. When the placenta comes, everyone present claps and shouts “Vita! Vita!” – meaning ‘finished’.

Philipino women often bury their placentas with books with the hope that this will ensure an intellectual child!

To Conclude:

Whether you choose to eat it, paint with it, throw it out or whatever, there’s no denying that the placenta is a beautiful thing. It is the connection between mother and child and can be a very spiritual symbol. Whatever we decide we should not judge other people’s choices even if they appear alien to us. Being different is what makes the world an interesting place.

1 Response to "Things to do with a placenta!"

Thought-provoking and very interesting.

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