Ground Placenta (danoxster/flickr)
By Kira Kim
I recently got an email with the subject line: “Placenta.”
I work with a lot of pregnant women and new mothers, so this particular tag didn’t faze me. But the note wasn’t about a client; it was about a new law in Oregon that allows mothers to take their placentas home from the hospital after childbirth.
Some hospitals already allowed this practice, but it was technically against Oregon’s law prohibiting medical facilities from releasing medical waste, reports The Oregonian.
Amanda Englund of Placenta Power in Portland told me in an email that momentum is “building” for mothers to take their placentas home with them for therapeutic use. “I have seen the number of clients I serve double every year. More folks are learning about it through media sources and more mothers are sharing their experiences about how positive the effects have been on their recovery. The new law cements…this growing trend.” (Want more proof? Kim Kardashian is considering it. And mean “Glee” cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester took her placenta home.)
OK, so now it’s legal: power to the placenta in Oregon.
But why, you may ask, would anyone want to take home their placenta in the first place?
The answer is broad: sometimes it’s a cultural thing, part of a long tradition, and sometimes it’s extremely intimate and health-related.
A 2013 survey published in the journal Ecology, Food and Nutrition by anthropologists at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada asked 189 women who ate their placentas after birth (a practice known as placentophagy) “why they did it, how they preferred to have the placenta prepared, and if they would do it again. (An interesting side note on demographics: in this study, the majority of women who ate their placentas were “American, Caucasian, married, middle class, college-educated and were more likely to give birth at home.”)
Researchers report that the top three positive effects of placenta consumption, according to participants, were:
(For the record, the top three negative side effects of placentophagy were: “Unpleasant burping, headaches, unappealing taste or smell.”)
I was first introduced to placentophagy while living in China. A Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner wrote me a prescription after I miscarried to balance my qi. As a Westerner I looked at him with a mix of sarcasm and confusion. He then explained that the medicine was actually placenta, dried, ground and taken in pill form. (This is called encapsulation — more later.)
I was not convinced about taking someone else’s placenta, but he had me interested. Could my own placenta from future pregnancies be used for my benefit? It was then that I learned about the art of placentophagy and began to learn the ins and outs of this ancient practice, as well as it’s benefits.
Upon returning to the U.S., I was surprised that so many American women were open to the practice. For the past two years, I’ve helped more than 100 mothers through this process. Continue reading