Prostaglandin, contained in the placenta in high levels, stimulates the shrinking of the uterus. It cleans the uterus out. It also has small amounts of oxytocin, an element that reduces birth stress, and brings on the contraction of the mammary cells so they ooze milk. The placenta is revered in many cultures. In some cultures, families hold ceremonies with the placenta and some bury them to celebrate this new life. On the baby's first birthday, a tree or flower will be planted there that will draw nourishment from the placenta. It has been an ingredient in some traditional Chinese medicines. One of the things that occurs during labor is the detachment of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. As the fetus begins to be delivered, it is no longer needed as a life-support system. Once the newborn is expelled, the placenta follows. The period of time that takes varies with the species. The neonate must be freed from membranes and placenta by severing the umbilical cord. All mammalian species follow this procedure. In nonhuman mammals, however, the mother consumes the afterbirth. This phenomenon has been the object of some study but there seems no consensus as to the cause for it or the consequences.
Eating the Placenta
Eating the placenta is not a new practice in human beings. It has been a common practice in many countries since the dawn of history. In some of those countries such as Indonesia and the Czech Republic, it was once believed that eating the placenta would guarantee future fertility. In China, it was believed that a bite of dried placenta would speed up labor. Hungarian women believed that if they burned the placenta and placed the ashes in their husbands’ drinks, he would not be able get them pregnant again. In the Ural Mountains in Russia, tribes considered the placenta a caretaker for the child and gave it a warm welcome. In addition to the knitted clothes prepared for the baby, they knit a tiny shirt for the placenta. Eating the placenta (called placentophagia), new information is revealing surprising benefits from this practice, believe it or not. Many new mothers in the western cultures are beginning to practice it even though doctors claim that it does not offer any benefits. Newer studies have revealed that placentophagia can, in fact, curb postpartum depression and replace some of the nutrients lost in birth. Some others indicate that it will increase milk production and possibly slow bleeding following birth.
Let's get to the nutritional content first. The placenta has very high levels of some vitamins such as B6. This is the one that helps out with postpartum depression. The mother can reclaim these vitamins and put them to use in her own body by ingesting the placenta. CRH, a corticotrophin-releasing hormone, normally secreted by the hypothalamus, is well-known to be a stress-reducer. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes high levels of CRH, also pouring great quantities into the expectant mother's bloodstream. And guess what? After birth, the mother has much lower than average levels of this hormone, thus triggering depression. Actually, when so much CRH was being produced during the final weeks of pregnancy, the hypothalamus shut down on its production. After the birth, the hypothalamus hasn't yet kicked into gear and begun to compensate for the low levels of CRH. Voila! A reasonable explanation for postpartum depression and an obvious but overlooked solution.
Preparation of the Placenta
So how do you go about eating your own placenta? Do you just bite off a chunk? Actually, this is one way to do it, but there are many other options. One of them is to eat it raw immediately after childbirth. Many claim that this is the most beneficial. The person who delivered your child will need to help you in this–be it midwife or medical professional. After the membranes are removed, small pieces can be cut off and given to the new mother. You will only need a small portion in order to receive huge benefits. Also, the placenta may be frozen and stored for later use. In this case, you may want to dry it because of the possibility of infection after defrosting. Many mothers who are practicing placentophagia are cooking it; however, as with most other foods, the greatest benefits are realized when it is eaten raw. It can be turned into capsules, and there are a number of placenta encapsulation specialists who can do this for you. Visit http://placentabenefits.info/ for more information.
For many, placentophagia seems barbaric although as we've seen, there are very good and practical reasons for it. In China, the placenta is considered a great life force. It is believed to have the potential for powerful contributions in medicine although there it is usually dried. They simply dehydrate it by one means or another and use a mortar and pestle to grind it. It can then be taken with food or put in capsules. Whatever you decide to do with your placenta, just remember that it is yours and you can do what you want with it. The life it helped you produce and nourish is, of course, to be valued above all else.
By TTS Health Consultant Gabrielle Gingras