For expectant moms, the placenta is the organ joining them and their baby. It transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus, and allows the release of carbon dioxide and waste products from the fetus. At full term the average placenta could measures seven inches in diameter and almost two inches thick.
Once the baby has arrived, to some, the placenta is a valued organ that has many uses. While I let the hospital keep mine to do lord knows what with, many women bring theirs home for various reasons.
Here are some I found:
They eat it! While I know this sounds repulsive, the ritual of cooking and eating the placenta after giving birth is surprisingly popular. Because studies show that the placenta is extremely nutrient rich, high in iron, protein, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6 and of course, your own natural hormones, this makes it perfectly made for you. Experts agree that the placenta retains hormones, and thus reintroducing them to your system may ease hormonal fluctuations – possibly preventing Post Partum Depression. Some recipes include jerky, lasagna, stew and pizza.
They turn it into capsules! Placenta Encapsulation is a discreet way for new moms recover more quickly from birth, bring their bodies back into balance, prevent and treat the “baby blues”, reduce bleeding and increase postnatal iron levels. For this, new parents bring the placenta (as quickly after delivery as possible) to a midwife who will dry it, grind it and put it into capsules ($275) The capsules can then be taken daily for a number of weeks where you can reap all of the healthful benefits of placenta quickly and easily or frozen to be taken over a longer period of time.
They bury it! While some believe that burying their placenta will bring them luck, others place it under a commemorative tree as fertilizer. As the tree grows, parents can celebrate the growth of their child.
They burn it! Some cultures traditionally put the placenta in a clay pot and smoke it. Afterwards, they bury the ashes.
They make art with it! Just like potato stamping, some parents do placenta stamping. After it is clean paint is applied to one side and it placed on a canvas. If positioned properly, the finished product should reassemble a tree, with the umbilical cord acting as the tree trunk and the placental veins as the tree branches.
Some parents dry the whole thing and then display it in a box.
Last year Alex Green set of a media storm after his Placenta Bear went on display at the Doing it for the Kids exhibition.
“The goal of the exhibition is to inspire designers, educators and parents to be more critical of the toys that shape a child’s values and the impact toy making has on the environment.”
Other Placental rituals around the world include:
- In Yemen the placenta is placed on the family’s roof for the birds to eat, in the hope that it will guarantee the love between the parents.
- In Malaysia the placenta is seen as the child’s older sibling and thought that the two are reunited at death. The midwife carefully washes the placenta, cord and membranes and wraps them in a white cloth to be buried.
- In Nepal, the placenta is given the name ‘bucha-co-satthi’ – meaning ‘baby’s friend’
- The Tanala people of Madagascar observe strict silence throughout the labour and birth and as the placenta is being delivered. When the placenta comes, everyone present claps and shouts “Vita! Vita!” – meaning ‘finished’.
Before deciding what you want to do you with your placenta, you should check with your local hospital and make sure that they will allow you to bring yours home.