Preserving the Placenta for Postpartum and Beyond
Did you know that nearly every mammal eats their placenta? We aren't exactly sure why but some say it is done to keep hungry predators away. Human consumption of the placenta is called placentophagy, and has been done for thousands of years as a Chinese medicinal practice.
One recent study revealed that placenta consumption provided a pain relieving opioid effect in postpartum rats, though there is truthfully little other research done on the benefits of placentophagy. Nevertheless, many mothers report an increase in energy, increase in breast milk production, and decrease in postpartum mood swings. This can likely be explained by the iron, oxytocin and Human Placental Lactogen (HPL; which promotes the production of prolactin in the mother - the breast development and milk production hormone) contained in the placenta.
Many birth workers also advocate for, and have reported success with, placentophagy as a method for suppressing postpartum hemorrhaging. Though there are not any studies done on this, the fact that placentas contain blood-clotting particles in addition to oxytocin point to their effectiveness in potentially helping to stop bleeding after birth.
There are several different methods in which a new mother can retain the benefits of her placenta during the postpartum period: have it encapsulated or made into a tincture or balm/salve, add it to a smoothie, eat it raw or cooked, or even drink the juices from the cooked placenta.
For mamas in LA, we highly recommend Valerie Rosas at The Feel Good Company for placenta services.
Placenta encapsulation is the act of processing a placenta into a powder form which is then added to a capsule that can be consumed as a vitamin. There are two preparation methods for encapsulation: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and RAW. The TCM method is carried out by cleaning, gently steaming with ginger, and then dehydrating the placenta. It is thought to bring healing and warmth back to the mother. For the RAW method, the placenta is dehydrated instead of cooked or steamed in order to avoid diminishing the nutritional value. The RAW food community believes that this method provides an immediate increase in energy and is an effective hormone stabilizer.
For even more immediate benefits of the RAW method, you can simply chew or hold a piece of the raw placenta in your mouth, between your gums and cheek. If this doesn’t sound too appetizing to you, you can add the raw placenta to a smoothie, essentially made bedside immediately after birth (after giving the placenta a good rinse). Have your doula or partner cut a few half-dollar sized pieces of placenta off from the maternal side (the side opposite the cord). Set one aside for the smoothie, save and freeze the remaining pieces for subsequent smoothies, and hand the rest of the placenta off for encapsulation. This gives mothers the opportunity to start benefiting from the magic of the placenta right away while they wait for capsules to arrive, which could take from a couple days to about a week.
When making a placenta smoothie, you don’t want it to be too cold, as this will slow down mom’s digestion. On the majority, you want to make sure she’s consuming ayurvedic warming foods and beverages during the postpartum period. So adding some frozen fruit like berries is okay, but make sure to balance it out with the same amount of fresh fruits or veggies, and be sure to skip out on the ice. Many women find the flavor of the placenta almost indistinguishable and rather enjoy their smoothie!
When consuming the placenta raw there are important factors to consider such as GBS status, a present infection, meconium or medication use. It is important to consult with a professional in deciding what method is best for you.
Berries and More Berries Smoothie
- 4 Strawberries
- Small handful of Blueberries
- 4 large Blackberries
- 4 Raspberries
- 1 whole Banana
- 10-12 oz. Coconut Water
- A thumb-size portion of raw placenta
Placenta tinctures are made by fermenting a piece of placenta in alcohol 100 proof or higher for up to six months. This process allows for long-term preservation of the placenta so that it can be used to support other hormonal transitions, like menopause or their child’s first menstrual cycles. Especially if a placenta is on the smaller side, a tincture will help make it last much longer than capsules.
This is an antibiotic-natured ointment made with placenta, herbs (like comfrey, calendula, echinacea, yarrow, or rosemary) and oils (olive or almond etc.) that can help heal a c-section scar, hemorrhoids, perineal tearing, cracked or blistered nipples, eczema, sunburn, diaper rash, skin irritation and more.
If you’re interested in trying your placenta cooked, you can approach it like you would any other organ meat. Some people have sauteed it (try it alongside some grass fed beef and add it to a dish like lasagna), or added it to a chili or soup.
As an alternative, if you plan on getting your placenta processed into powder form, you can use it to make truffles.
One book we love and highly recommend reading on the topic Placenta the Forgotten Chakra by Robin Lim, which includes some great cooking recipes!
The content provided in this article(s) is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Neither Carson Meyer nor C & The Moon LLC are liable for claims arising from the use of or reliance on information contained in this article.