After giving birth, women are known to do some crazy things. (No explanation needed, right? We just pushed a human out of our bodies.) Among the more peculiar trends of late is the act of placenta eating—a ritual many American women subscribe to for purported benefits including hormone balancing, replenishing the body and staving off post-partum depression.
My daughter was born on a Sunday morning in 2013. After our home birth didn’t go according to plan, we wound up in the hospital. With our daughter just a few hours old, my partner left us alone so he could rush home to put my baby’s placenta in the freezer. Considered an organ (it is one, technically!), the hospital forbids moving the placenta from the delivery room to the hospital room. Had we delivered at home, our midwife would have had time to prep and freeze the placenta for us. But when my daughter was not budging after five eternal hours of pushing, we knew we had no choice but to head to the hospital (she was caught on the cord and her heart rate was steadily dropping). So there I was, alone, exhausted, and now worried to death about my sleep-deprived baby daddy driving home with a placenta in the front seat.
Once home, we did what our midwives instructed. A longtime vegan, I drank a smoothie with my daughter’s pulverized placenta mixed into it. It tasted like cold berries and metal. I detailed the event here on EcoSalon not long after it happened. We were advised to finish the entire placenta within about 10 days. They said it would prevent all sorts of issues, but the opposite happened to me: Shortly after drinking it one night, I was overtaken with cold chills. I was freezing in September in Los Angeles, chattering teeth and all. My partner called the midwife in a panic. “She is freezing,” he told her. My temperature was down to 95 degrees.
Not long after, I felt with overwhelming certainty that not only shouldn’t I be eating this organ, but like most humans throughout our history, I should instead honor it, bury it, and thank it for the life it supported inside me. The Kogi of Colombia’s mountains bury the afterbirth in a sacred spot. Children are brought there throughout the phases of childhood to honor and thank it like a passed relative.
Now, new research finds that placenta eating shows no health benefits. “[W]hether consumed raw, cooked, or in pill form, there are no proven, tangible benefits to consuming the placenta,” reports Time Magazine. “Perhaps more importantly, the risk level of doing so is currently unknown, so moms may be putting themselves (and their babies, if they are breastfeeding) in harm’s way by consuming afterbirth.”
Saving the placenta (even if the plan is to eat it), is certainly a more honorable fate than sending it off to the hazardous waste pile—there’s no question about that. But perhaps modern American mothers would reap more benefits from honoring this organ that sustained life rather than pureeing it at 28,000 RPMs. Food for thought, anyway.
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Newborn image via Shutterstock