Some of you may have heard about the benefits of keeping your placenta to "eat". Some of you may be reading this disgusted, in disbelief that women actually do it. Actually, humans are the only mammals that don't instinctually eat their placentas straight after giving birth!
Admittedly, when I first heard of it a few years ago, I didn't think it was really my thing-I'm not easily disgusted (as you can probably tell by now) so it never 'bothered' me, but I guess I hadn't delved deep enough into what it was all about. But whilst daydreaming about what would be my 5th pregnancy, I decided to read up on it and it started to become something I was really eager to try.
So before I go into my experience with placenta encapsulation (and the added extras-I'll go into these too), I want to pay homage to the amazing thing that is the placenta. This thing is a self-grown organ, tailored to your baby. It filters out the stuff your baby doesn't need and keeps them alive for however long they chose to occupy your premises.
Babies "breath" through their cord which is attached to the placenta, which is attached to the wall of the uterus. It is full of beautiful veins and one main artery, carrying all the goods to your beautiful babe. All the veins make up a pattern which makes it easy to see why the placenta is often referred to as the "tree of life" (my favourite ever term for it).
It is rich in vitamins B6 and B12, CRH (stress reducer hormone), iron, oestrogen and progesterone-all of which hold great importance for mama when recovering mentally and physically from giving birth.
Iron helps to avoid anemia-something that mums are at risk of due to post partum bleeding. Also, low iron causes extreme tiredness-not what you need when you're already not sleeping at night! Oestrogen, progesterone, B vitamins and CRH all contribute to a good mental balance.
So, what exactly is ingesting the placenta supposed to help with? It's claimed that ingesting your placenta can help:
-Increase breast milk supply
-Decrease the chances of developing post natal depression or other post natal mental illness
-Reduce post partum blood loss
-Feeling generally in better health after giving birth
-Decreases chances of post natal anaemia
So with all this information, it seemed stupid of me not to try it given my history. Here's how that experience went for us:
So, first of all I searched the Internet for the woman that would be handling my placenta, and I found a wonderful lady called Lindsay who was local, who was registered with the IPEN, the Independant Placenta Encapsulating Network. We talked a lot which products and methods I would like (there's more than you'd think!), and why I was wanting it and what I was expecting of it.
We decided to get half of my placenta made into capsules made by the Traditional Chinese Method-where the placenta is steamed, then dehydrated with herbs and lemon, often described as "chill pills". The other half we had made by Raw method, which is similar to the TCM except, as its name would suggest, the steaming isn't part of the process, and there is nothing added or taken away. These are often referred to as "happy pills".
We also chose to have placenta smoothies and a placenta "essence"-which is basically a distilled water rescue remedy with unlimited uses!
The process was pretty seamless, when the time came we had a cool bag, ice packs and a Tupperware box to keep the placenta in for Lindsay to collect it, with all the relevant forms and stickers to sign to say we would be keeping it. The hospital staff were so amazing and I experienced no funniness or questioning, other than genuine interest. I had prepared myself for a small battle or for "medical opinions" to be shoved down my throat, but no, the midwives thought it was great and were more than happy with my choices, not just with the placenta, but with my whole birth (but that's another story for another day).
Lindsay took my placenta, and drove to a quiet place in the countryside, and prepared my placenta smoothies in her in-van kitchen. Ready to return to me asap. She was back within the hour with 3 days worth of smoothies, to tie me over until my capsules were ready.
The smoothies were made with just a thumb sized piece of placenta, blended with berries, water and we added honey to taste. There was nothing disgusting about it, and there was no part of me that thought it was weird. My husband was the first to try it (yes we're that kind of couple) and gave me the ok that there was no odd taste to it, no chunks, and it did just taste like a berry smoothie.
Let me just add at this point that Noah's labour was 31 hours long. He was born around 6am, so I had spent the past two nights sleeping between contractions and in theory should have been exhausted. I do not cope well without sleep, with the added delight that is fibromyalgia, I am pretty much asleep with my eyes open most of the time. Of course I was buzzing with adrenaline as soon as he was born, soaking in every little crease of his finger and counting his eyelashes, but unlike my previous four births, there was no time in the coming days or weeks where I felt like I was hitting that wall. From the get-go I was energised, and I fully attribute that to the kick-start the smoothies gave me.
Lindsay dropped by my house on day 2, with a beautifully presented little bag of everything I had ordered, with a few extra touches. Included in my little package, was my two jars of capsules, my bottle of essence, my dried out umbilical cord, and a print our beautiful tree of life.
The capsules were fine, although I must say they did repeat on me afterwards for an hour or two, with a herby taste. Nothing that chewing gum couldn't mask. I felt full of energy, and although Noah had a lot of trouble latching to begin with, my milk was coming in thick and fast and he started to gain weight like a trooper.
Energy wise I was on fire. With suffering from fibromyalgia, especially during pregnancy, I couldn't remember the last time I had been able to do the things I was doing! I was in little to no pain, and was able to keep on top of my mum duties. This to me was an absolute godsend!
Mentally I was ok, I had low days which was to be expected, and I think Noah's poor latch, which made breastfeeding extremely painful for the first few weeks, was the reason of that. But I certainly wasn't feeling generally down, and I didn't have the infamous 3 day teary meltdown that most mothers experience.
In a nutshell, these tablets worked for me in a way I wasn't even expecting. If I were to have another baby, I would definitely do it again, and if an open minded friend ever showed an interest, I would definitely recommend to try it. Because what do you have to lose?
My fascination with the female body and reproductive system is no secret, and this amazing organ just adds to the list of the wonderful things women's bodies can do.