I ate my placenta. And based on the squeamish reactions I have received since sharing that nifty piece of information, I thought I should write a little more about the practice of placentophagy and my own experience with it.
Alright, so, eating your own placenta to promote postpartum recovery (placentophagy) might not exactly be a mainstream idea yet, but it isn’t a new one at all. Throughout the ages and around the world, many women have consumed the afterbirth, that has nurtured and sustained the life of their babe in-utero. Today, more and more women choose to ingest their own placenta, known to be jam-packed with helpful nutrients, vitamins and hormones. Many report increased energy, better milk supply, less postpartum depression, decreased postpartum bleeding and faster healing of scar tissues (check out this video here). While some women don’t mind it sautéed or in a smoothie to preserve the original qualities of the nutrients, the most popular way to eat it in the West is by dehydrating it and turning it into little capsules so you don’t have to deal with the taste (find out how it is done, here). You can even add herbal supplements to the dehydrated, ground placenta if desired or consume as is, which is what I did.
Did I just lose you? In all honesty, it felt a tiny bit “crunchy” for me after my first birth too. However, after digging into the practice a bit more, I knew it was an obvious item to add to my second birth “bucket list”. I was so curious to see what all the buzz was about (at least in the birth center and home-birth worlds). Based on my research, it was my hope that nature’s free medicine might help decrease those night sweats that had me waking to change my PJs more often than feed my newborn last time. I was dying to know if the oxytocin left in the afterbirth would give me a closer bond with my daughter than in the first days after Ayo’s birth, when I felt rather estranged. I was also eager to compare my postpartum energy levels with the recovery from my previous birth.
So, a couple days after Délice was born, our kind neighbor helped us drive the placenta-on-ice to the Placenta Lady. She did all the dirty work for us. I do understand you can encapsulate your own but, this isn’t exactly the type of leftovers the hubs wanted to find in our blender. Two days later, we were given a little jar of capsules and a few instructions on how and when and when not to take the powerful tonifier. I would have loved to share my experience of taking the pills the first days postpartum but according to Chinese Medicine, counter-indications included not taking the pills when you have any acute illness (think: mastitis, flu, cold..). Well, by day 3, our whole house (minus Délice, thank God!) got sick for 2-4 days. Bam! That meant that I was only taking the capsules from day 4 onwards. Of course, for best results, you are meant to take the majority of the pills within your first ten days postpartum. So much for my placenta experiment.
In the end, the most tangible effect from placenta ingestion I can attest to, was a moderate decrease in those hormonal night sweats and a noticeable increase in milk production. In my case, the latter was not a good thing as Délice was already struggling with my ridiculous over-supply to start off with. In fact, the magic milk enhancing placenta capsules may have indirectly contributed to an extremely fussy baby (gassy and puking up everywhere) as well as two horrible bouts of mastitis in those first weeks, which meant suspending placenta pills completely during that time.
I understand that each body reacts very differently to placenta pills. So, if you were wondering what to expect after consuming a placenta, you’d have to carry out your own experiment. All I can say is that, minus those few sick days with a family tummy bug and with the bouts of mastitis, yes, I absolutely felt physically and emotionally healthy in first two weeks following Délice’s birth. I was out of breath, but literally up and running by day 2. But how much can you attribute to the pills and how much to the subsequent birth factor? It’s hard to know exactly. Délice’s was an unmedicated, second birth without any laceration. Recovery was understandably really quick. The first days were also much less stressful this time. During Ayo’s first days of life, I wasn’t sure I liked being a slave to the incessant breastfeeding of this helpless being, to the night wakings, to the projectile vomit and explosive poop – blah! I was more prepared for the drill this time. Also, yes, I felt tired in those first two weeks following Christmas Day, but it is hard to know how much is sickness and racing-after-toddler-induced, how much was the fact that I was/am up in the night with a newborn. And would I have been more fatigued without the pills? Difficult to know with certainty. All that to say, I don’t regret eating my placenta but I sadly cannot offer a very conclusive report based on my personal circumstances.
I am fully aware this is a terrible anti-climax at the end of this blog entry, which has been the main reason I wrote it days ago but never posted it. What can I say – sometimes you can’t tie everything up in a cute package with a pretty bow. I’d love to hear your thoughts on placenta consumption or any of your first hand experiences with the practice!