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August 30, 2008

Oh, Placenta

1 It's getting close. I'm just past 37 weeks pregnant now and patiently playing the waiting game. We're having a home birth and have everything ready- all the supplies and plans and so forth. There's just one last thing on my mind that I can't decide on. What should we do with the placenta?

If you had asked me that a few years ago I probably would have said with the WHAT? I didn't know you actually do anything with the placenta. And just what is the placenta anyway? (The placenta is considered a "life source" providing nourishment and exchanging respiratory gasses to the baby as well as eliminating waste and blocking most harmful substances.) Now that I am having this birth at home and have learned a lot about a whole mess of things that I'd never thought about before, we come to the disposal of the placenta.

In a hospital setting, the placenta is usually stored for a few days to be available for testing in the case of any complications post-pregnancy, and then it is destroyed. Some hospitals do allow women to have the placenta just as they allow patients to take home tonsils, kidney stones, or appendixes. But this brings me to the question-  what could a woman possibly want to do with a placenta?

I've talked to my midwife about it and if we do nothing with it, the placenta is bagged and frozen for a week and then put out with the trash. But if I would like to actually do something with it, she has done a lot of placenta art - where the placenta is "stamped," so to speak onto poster board or canvas and the veins create a tree of life. Many families choose to bury theirs a la Matthew McConaughey and have a ceremony and tree planting along with it where you can celebrate every year.

And then there is the eating of the placenta...

I've heard recently about the benefits to Mom if she ingests the placenta- called Placentophagia- whether it be by cooking it up or having it encapsulated and taken like a vitamin. The eating of the placenta has been found to curb postpartum depression, replenish nutrients, increase milk production, and slow postpartum hemorrhage. There is a bit of controversy here, if not also the turning of your stomach (hope you aren't eating your lunch while reading this), as some people view eating the placenta as a cultural thing not practiced among civilized societies, that the eating of one's own organ is cannibalism, and most people are just plain grossed out at the thought.

I have to say currently I still don't know what I want to do. Personally, I will definitely not be choosing to eat it. But I do think I am leaning more towards the burial idea, if anything at all.

And to be honest, that's mainly because I just hate the idea of it going out on garbage day.

Original Chicago Moms Blog post. Stephanie also blogs at Adventures In Babywearing.


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