I Ate My Baby’s Placenta …On Purpose


A vegan eats a baby’s placenta?

I gave birth. No, really. A semi-gigantic future sumo wrestler was born out of the most delicate part of my body. After she appeared, an organ almost as big as her pushed its way through me as well. I have witnesses. Miraculously, I did not split in half. In fact, for the most part, if you look at me now, it’s pretty difficult to even tell that it ever happened.

It’s the single most ridiculous, stupid and unbelievably beautiful thing we as human women can do. Once you’ve become a mommy, there is an instant and unbreakable bond with other women. It’s an exclusive club amongst us girls with only one requirement to get in. Like a good eco-minded organic, vegan mommy, my recovery was under the guidance of a midwife. We tried to have as natural a pregnancy, birth and post partum recovery as we could. And most of that worked out smoothly.  (Complications during the end of my pregnancy and labor required that I spend a good bit of time in the hospital though.) I recommend the natural birthing route. After all, what’s more natural than giving birth?

To ward off post-partum depression and to boost energy, it was recommended by our midwife that I eat my baby’s placenta. It’s the organ that fed her for nine months in my uterus. It’s pretty amazing that during pregnancy a woman’s body not only grows a human (or many more), but a whole other organ as well! Like other organs, it’s a source of nutrient density. Other mammals eat their babies’ placentas (the act is called placentophagia). So, at the urging of our midwife, I decided to give it a shot even though animal parts have not entered my body in more than two decades…let alone organ meat.

In the wild, animals eat their placenta for two main reasons: First, it’s easy-to-find food. (It literally falls at their feet.) But it’s the second reason that’s even more important: It removes any trace of blood and rotting body parts that would tempt the nose of the nearest predator. Animals eat their placentas for safety.

Despite being mostly sure I would projectile vomit it out, I agreed to eat it. Even though I wasn’t in any jeopardy of attack by a pack of hungry lions, tossing the placenta into the hazardous waste pile didn’t seem very eco. And as overwhelming as pregnancy and labor were, I didn’t want to take any risks with developing post-partum depression.

We cut up the frozen placenta into chunks and my partner added them to smoothies per our midwife’s recommendation. I won’t lie; the smoothies tasted amazing. At first, anyway. I don’t know what a placenta tastes like, but all I tasted was almond milk and berries.

You’re supposed to eat the placenta until it’s gone…about ten days worth of smoothies. We were in for about three when I started to notice nausea percolating in my still intact stomach. I shrugged it off as just getting feeling back into my body after the birth. On the fourth day, a few minutes after drinking my organ and blueberry smoothie, I was overcome with the chills. Like, put me in a Tauntaun, Han, or I will freeze to death. My partner took my temperature: 95.9 degrees.

The thing they don’t tell you about post-partum is just how bat-shit crazy your hormones can go. The pregnancy hormones cease as soon as the placenta vacates the uterus. Then, you’ve got the breastfeeding hormones settling in. It’s a thirteen car pile up. I was skidding off the road. And the placenta? It was like the sheet of sheer hormonal ice underneath my car.

While lots of women swear eating their placentas spared them from PPD, it’s important to remember that the placebo effect is nearly 40 percent. And curiously, looking into human placenta consumption, it’s not as common as you would think. Turns out most of our ancestors buried the thing and honored it. They brought their children to the place where it lay so they could give thanks and pay respects. It’s as much a mother to them as we women are. For a time, anyway.

I stopped eating the placenta after I realized it wasn’t doing me any favors. We haven’t buried it yet, but there’s a beautiful spot in Eaton Canyon east of Pasadena, Calif. where I plan to take its remains. And we’ll take our daughter there from time to time to visit. I don’t know how she’ll feel though, once she knows I actually ate some of it.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: capturedbychelsea

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.