Ok, so those of you who don’t know me may be getting the impression that I am somewhat of a hippie, what with my grand ideas for a natural homebirth and all of my hypnobirthing chat. And now I am going to tell you that I consumed my placenta after the birth of Maggie. In actual fact, the closest I get to being a hippie is wearing a Boho print tunic every now and then and attending Glastonbury any year that I can. But staying in pre-erected camping with access to showers.
I only found out later on in pregnancy that I would have to give birth to my placenta, let alone the fact that I could actually eat it. I must admit I was horrified at the thought of having to birth an entire other object after pushing out a human being; why don’t they ever show you that in the movies? When I heard of the possibility of being able to eat my placenta my mind was blown. However, the conventional ways of whizzing it up into a smoothie or frying it up in a pan and eating alongside my beans on toast didn’t really float my boat. Then I heard about placenta encapsulation. No need to bite into anything and still all the goodness by just swallowing a pill. Despite the recent debate after Rochelle Humes posted about her placenta encapsulation on Instagram alongside her umbilical cord fashioned into the words ‘love’ and an entire segment given over to it on This Morning, a mother consuming her afterbirth is not a new thing. Mothers have been wolfing down this iron-rich organ for many years, lured by it’s benefits including warding off post-natal depression, increasing milk production and speeding post-partum recovery. I had taken shop-bought vitamin tablets religiously before and during my pregnancy and now I could pop a few pills of my own placenta. No difference, right?
After researching on the internet, I managed to find a Specialist who offered the service in my area. I searched on www.placentaremediesnetwork.org and found Soshanna Hayhoe, and after reading her bio (I’m a sucker for a good bio), I decided she was the one. We exchanged emails and phone calls, and I decided to go for the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) capsules, whereby the placenta is steamed, dehydrated, ground and put into capsules for me to ingest following the birth of my baby. I also decided that after growing this life giving organ for over 9 months, if I was going to do it, I may as well go the whole hog and went for the package which included the essence and tincture, all for £210. Placenta Essence is said to be extremely helpful for relieving “baby blues” and postpartum depression or any time you need a little hormonal help or your baby needs a lift. The placenta is distilled then suspended in a weak alcohol solution as a “mother” essence to create a remedy which can last a lifetime. A few drops when you’re feeling like you need a lift is very powerful, as is a drop for your child when they are fretful or under the weather. Placenta Tincture is a powerful and potent remedy to aid physical and emotional healing and to support hormonal balancing. Extremely effective during PMS and the menopause, also during times of transition, illness, stress, emotional upheaval or hormonal imbalance. The placenta is steeped in a strong alcohol solution for 6 weeks, oscillated daily, then strained to form a tincture which should last forever. For the more adventurous, you can also have it made into chocolates or smoothies but that was a step too far for me. Although, for the more devious amongst you, offering a placenta choccy to unsuspecting house guests could be an amusing way to pass the time.
There were a few forms to fill and other than that, all we needed to do was give Soshanna our estimated due date to make sure she made no plans to be away from the area as I (or Chris) needed to call her as soon as I went into labour so that she could make arrangements to pick up my placenta when the time came. After my due date came and went and there was talk of keeping an eye on my placenta to ensure it wasn’t deteriorating, I contacted Soshanna to see if going over 42 weeks would be a problem, but she assured me that as long as the placenta was handled in the correct way, she would still be able to work with it. Speaking of handling my placenta, the instructions we were given was to inform my midwife that I planned to consume my placenta, handle the organ in as clean a way as possible after the birth and have a sanitised container with a freezer block ready to put it in. Luckily, I am no stranger to a bit of Tupperware and had a large container that would do the job. I had no idea how big my placenta was going to be so went for the largest size I I could find, just in case. When our plans changed from our planned home-birth to having to go to hospital, I remember shouting at Chris to put the Tupperware and freezer block in the car. Priorities are somewhat warped under pressure!
During the fun and games of my labour (they don’t call it labour for nothing), we also had the matter of advising our midwives that I planned to keep my placenta for consumption. My first midwife thought this was amazing and was looking forward to learning more; the second midwife I had when the shifts changed, wasn’t so keen. To be fair, she was more concerned about looking after me and my baby rather than my dietary preferences after the birth, and when we posed the question of whether we might be able to store the placenta in the staff fridge until Soshanna arrived, it was all a bit too much for her to take. That said, we stuck to our guns and after I had delivered Maggie, the placenta was begrudgingly put into my Tupperware container and kept cool until Chris was able to hand over the package. The midwife was concerned that because Maggie had pooped herself during labour, meconium had covered some of the placenta and thought that didn’t really deem the organ fit for human consumption. Fair point. I don’t really remember any of this except for having to be quite forceful that I would still like to see if Soshanna could salvage some of it, and in the end, it was transferred into the specialist’s capable hands and en route for its planned encapsulation later that night.
48 hours later when I was home from hospital, Soshanna dropped off my package along with a warm congratulatory hug and all of the instructions of what to do next. I was to take 1 or 2 capsules 3 x a day for as long as they lasted. In all, I had about 6 weeks’ supply. My placenta was quite small and some of it was damaged, but I have heard of people having enough capsules to last them for months. She also gave me instructions for administering the essence if I needed it. When I opened the gift bag I saw Soshanna had also taken a ‘print’ of my placenta, which looks like an incredible tree of life that I plan to have framed for Maggie’s nursery. She also dried out the umbilical cord into the shape of a heart, which I have to keep away from the dog as he has had his eye on it for months…
So did it work? I have to say, that despite all the usual challenges of the first few weeks of motherhood, I felt ‘alive’ after taking the pills. Whether that was me running on adrenaline or the benefits of the placenta, I don’t know, but family and friends remarked on how ‘well’ they thought I looked and acted. I certainly think that taking the capsules can only have helped with my mood, and with Maggie permanently attached to my breast from the get go, I needed all the help I could get with my milk supply. I would recommend not taking a whiff of the jar as the capsules do give off a certain ‘eau de organ’, and also advise swallowing them with a glass of orange juice or similar as those with a more sensitive constitution may be able to taste something out of the ordinary, but its no worse than taking those pregnancy vitamins that you buy from Boots. All in all, there was something quite special about treating my placenta with love and respect, rather than it going into the incinerator alongside all the others. I felt energised, less hormonal and more balanced during those first few weeks of taking the pills. When Maggie allowed me some respite, I was able to get pockets of deep, rejuvenating sleep and felt like my recovery was expedited, despite being battered and bruised after my somewhat invasive labour. I did have a wobble around day 3 when my milk came in, but nothing like the deep, dark ‘baby blues’ that I was anticipating. I just wish that my placenta had made more capsules as, after week 6, the new born bubble well and truly burst and life with a baby became a whole lot more challenging.
*for those easily offended by photos of placentas, don’t scroll down.