I may need help. Some retail therapy or something. I’m surprised I’m not one of those extreme couponers that fills her house with a bunch of shit she will never, ever use. How can I possibly be considering ingesting something that shoots out of my vagina? I know, I know – that may sound judgmental But seriously. I’m not the kind of person that eats placenta. I’m just not.
A few years ago I was on a natural birth board. It was before my emergency c-section when I still believed everything went as planned all the time. I was totally into the concept of natural birth – the no pain meds, the water bath, the midwives – I still am to be honest. But there was always one aspect I couldn’t wrap my brain around – the placenta eating.
I get it. We’re all animals. We’re the only mammals that don’t eat our own placentas. It’s nature. Yeah. It’s also fucking weird. Eating your own organs is fucking weird. Apparently it’s really not an organ – and it actually belongs to your baby and not you (that’s what the advocates say). But it’s still weird to me.
Back to the birth board. Someone was asking whether anyone had plans to eat their placenta, which of course inspired a very predictable debate. You know, a third of us saying Um, gross another third admonishing us for being judgmental and still another third saying, to each her own. I always thought I fell into the to each her own category, heavily leaning toward trying it. Until I read a woman’s story about consuming her placenta after the birth of her child. It went something like this:
Right after the birth of my child I just reached down, grabbed it, and took a bite.
She took a bite of her placenta.
After it had just slid out of her vagina.
Oh my god. I realized at that moment I am not that hard-core. Something about that statement just made me realize I wasn’t in the “placenta eating” group.
I guess I’ve always been a believer in go big or go home. I definitely wouldn’t be going big with this. So I just gave up on the idea. Until it was mentioned to me a few weeks ago by my new midwife.
Midwife: I highly recommend going with this doula. She’s great. And she offers free placenta encapsulation with her service so you won’t need to do that separately.
Me: Oh, great!
I have a bad habit of playing along in these scenarios. Even though I definitely lean more toward the natural birth ideology, I’m not comfortable with the home VBAC they were pushing, I won’t be buying one of those super-confusing wraps and I won’t be attending any La Leche League meetings. I also never had any intention of eating my placenta. Why did I play it off like I did? I think it’s because sometimes I feel like a phony. If I do lean towards a natural birth, aren’t I supposed to be into these things? Shouldn’t I think ingesting my placenta is reasonable?
After I got home from that appointment, I really started thinking about it. Placenta encapsulation? Okay – so it will be in pill form. I can swallow anything in pill form. It’s definitely not the same as taking a bite out of one that’s freshly birthed. I took to the Internet to see what Google had to say about the whole thing. Are placentas as great as everyone says they are?
According to an article in The Atlantic, no clinical studies attest to their benefit – or harm. As far as it being the natural and normal thing to do:
Although many proponents argue that placenta eating is natural, it doesn’t appear to be something humans used to do before “society” interfered and deemed it gross. A historical review found “scant evidence” for the practice. Its author, William Ober, allowed that placenta may have been credited with some medical properties throughout human history, but wrote that most instances of its ingestion were probably due to extreme circumstances, like famine. He could conclude only that “given sufficient motivation, mankind will eat anything.”
Admittedly, that kind of describes me. But the “anything” usually only applies to frost-bitten ice-cream and “sufficient motivation” is usually pregnancy craving or extreme sweet tooth.
When you look at the testaments of women on birth boards who have ingested their placenta – most admit to feeling great afterward and really feel that it makes a difference. Is it a placebo? I don’t know. I think if something makes you feel better, even if it is a placebo, it’s worth it. But is it worth it enough for me to get special permission to leave the hospital with this thing in a cooler, hand it over to my doula, and anxiously await some home made pills that make your burps taste really weird? I don’t know about that.
I was sitting in my midwife’s office today awaiting the results of an ultrasound I had to have after my move:
Everything looks great, Maria. All anatomy looks good – the only thing to even mention is that your placenta looks a little aged.
What? Will I still be able to encapsulate it?
I’m such a phony.