Want an easier transition into motherhood once the baby is born? Consider consuming your own placenta for a happier, healthier postpartum.

The placenta. That fascinating organ a woman's body creates right from the beginning of pregnancy to nourish and protect her baby. It carries oxygenated blood, secretes important hormones and excretes waste products from the baby too. Really, it deserves more credit. Not only is the placenta a hard worker for 40 weeks give or take, but it may offer benefits that extend much longer. In a movement growing in popularity, many new moms now are deciding to keep their placentas around awhile after birth — well into the postpartum period. They are choosing to consume the placenta.

Would you consider letting your placenta continue working for you? Make placenta consumption a part of your birth plan? Check out these five reasons why ingesting your placenta isn't all that scary.

Ease into motherhood

Who doesn't want an easier transition into motherhood once the baby is born? A happier postpartum? Yes, please. The idea of consuming afterbirth still makes many a stomach turn, yet the placenta offers the very medicine that can help re-balance hormones naturally. Thankfully for those who can't fathom eating raw placenta, there are less invasive ways, such as encapsulation, that make reaping the placenta's benefits more like biting into a piece of cake.

Eighty percent of moms experience some sort of the baby blues. It's so common that they warn you about it in the hospital — and it doesn't have to be so!

Amy Adams, owner of Embrace After Birth, provides holistic postpartum support to Kentuckiana moms, namely placenta encapsulation. Explaining why she is so passionate about her work, Amy says, "Eighty percent of moms experience some sort of the baby blues. It's so common that they warn you about it in the hospital — and it doesn't have to be so! Our bodies are inherently perfect that way — just as our breasts are designed to feed our babies, I believe our placentas can benefit us as well."

Julie, a recent Embrace After Birth customer, consumed "placenta pills" for a couple of weeks after her second son was born and chose to freeze the rest to take when she returned to work following her maternity leave. "If I'm having a rough day I'll take one or two. I froze the broth in ice cube trays and would put a cube or two into tea or soup. I loved it! After my first son was born, around three days postpartum I would cry for no reason and just felt blah sometimes. In taking the encapsulated placenta pills after baby two, it was much smoother. If I started to feel a little emotional, I'd take a pill and I would feel better surprisingly fast and the energy it gave me was amazing too!" While Julie recognizes that in our culture placenta encapsulation is still viewed by some as strange, because of her positive experience she now recommends it to all.

Heal your body naturally

The placenta is rich in many healing chemicals — chemicals that naturally and biologically oppose such negative occurrences as depression, fatigue and hormonal imbalances. Let's look at a few:

  • Oxytocin, a.k.a. the love hormone. Oxytocin is released in large amounts during labor and birth. It's the hormone that causes the uterus to contract. It facilitates maternal bonding with the baby, intimacy and attachment. Oxytocin has been shown to pass through breast milk and on into the baby. In other words, it helps Mom to feel like Mom. Placenta consumption gives new moms an extra "love" boost.
  • Cortisone. This hormone fights stress and boosts energy. A great combination for new mothers as they recover from the rigors of childbirth.
  • Prostaglandins. These compounds are responsible for softening and ripening the cervix before and during labor. They are anti-inflammatory by design. As a mother is healing physically, this chemical aids in returning her body to her pre-pregnancy state.
  • Hemoglobin. Because of blood and fluid loss that inevitably accompanies childbirth, iron deficiency and anemia happen commonly in the postpartum period. Hemoglobin helps the blood transport oxygen, and thus provides more energy to a new mom who may be experiencing anemic symptoms.

Other mammals are doing it

The song "You and Me Baby Ain't Nothing But Mammals" by the Bloodhound Gang comes to mind for this section! The line So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel may not be in reference to placenta consumption, but it does help point out the obvious. You and me, we are humans. You and me, we are mammals. And nearly every mammal consumes the placenta after its offspring is born. Why not us too?

newborn goat and mother

The simplest theory as to why our mammal friends instinctively turn toward their placentas for food is that mothers are hungry following birth and the placenta is readily available. It offers nutrition they cannot receive in any other way. There are others though that believe placentophagy — the act of eating the placenta — serves an evolutionary purpose. Could consuming the placenta actually play a role in positively affecting a mother's immune system by creating helpful antibodies which guard against antigens present in the baby's blood? The research on this matter is still inconclusive. It seems though that mammals may have discovered the key to making their own natural, preventive countermeasure to some immune triggers.

Other cultures are doing it

It is believed by these cultures that the placenta is a life-giving force. By ingesting the placenta, a person's vitality may be restored. Placenta consumption is a healing treatment.

The placenta in many cultures worldwide is honored for its symbolism of life and spirit. Burying the placenta in a sacred, ceremonious fashion is popular among African tribes, Native American tribes, as well as Aboriginal tribes. Some of these tribes believe careful treatment of the placenta directly affects the health and well-being of the mother and new baby. Burying the placenta below a tree is a popular tradition as it represents ongoing life and a return gift to Mother Nature. In many Asian countries, though, especially China and Vietnam, the placenta is consumed. Generally through a process, the placenta is dried and taken as a supplement. It is believed by these cultures that the placenta is a life-giving force. By ingesting the placenta, a person's vitality may be restored. Placenta consumption is a healing treatment.

What have you got to lose?

In the words of Katherine, a mom of two and a pro placenta encapsulation advocate, "I'd much rather have the capsules and not need them, instead of deciding against them and regretting it later. The other benefits speak for themselves, too — what new mom wouldn't want more energy, to heal quickly and to get help with her milk supply if she needs it? Not all moms will experience all of these benefits, but even so, I'd take none of them if it means I can avoid PPD."

Bottom Line^ Will consuming your placenta be part of your "after" birth plan? Research placenta encapsulation services in your area to learn more about what's offered.

More on birth plans

Eating your placenta
How to write a birth plan
The pros and cons of creating a birth plan