After you give birth to your baby, your midwife will be carefully watching and waiting for the delivery of your placenta.  You might not have thought too much about it before now but, what should you do with your placenta after birth?

There are actually a lot more options of what to do with your placenta than you might have realized! You can eat it, encapsulate it, plant it, have it made into a lotion or salve, preserve it into jewelry, create a unique piece of art, or store it and decide later.

Let’s learn more about this fascinating organ, and dive into the details of the different things mommas are choosing to do with their placentas after birth to help you decide.

What exactly is the placenta?

The placenta is an organ that your body grows during pregnancy.  It is located in your uterus and attaches to your growing baby via the umbilical cord.  Your placenta is the powerhouse that supplies your baby with all of its need while in utero.  The placenta filters blood, oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients that are then sent to baby through the umbilical cord.

This unique organ is one of the only ones that is considered “disposable”.  Meaning, once your body is done using it to grow a baby, your body will naturally expel the organ because it is no longer needed. 

Often, mainstream doctors and midwives will dispose of the organ for you after it is delivered.  But, many mommas are wanting to do something with this life-giving and truly extraordinary organ once it is finished growing your precious baby.  Read on to find out what your options are beyond disposal after birth.

What should I do with my placenta after birth?

1. Eat your placenta

The act of eating your placenta, known as placentophagy, is a common practice among other mammals and has been practiced in Chinese medicine for centuries.  More recently, it gaining traction among modern mothers.

Why would you want to eat your placenta? 

People believe that eating the placenta will:

  • Increase milk supply
  • Help with hormonal balance
  • Lower your risk of postpartum depression
  • Increase iron levels in your body

The thing is, there is not a lot of scientific evidence supporting these claims.  However, the anecdotal evidence provided by mommas who have eaten their own placentas is abounding.  Many mommas swear that ingesting their placenta improved their postpartum experiences in different ways.

There was one study done on rats ingesting raw placenta that showed a link between placenta ingestion and suppression of pain receptors in the body.  This might suggest that eating your placenta may help reduce pain during your postpartum healing process. 

However, there have been no similar studies done on humans, and if you choose to encapsulate your placenta, the heating and drying process would destroy this possibility because the placenta needs to be eaten raw.

Should I eat my placenta?

In general, the practice of eating your placenta is discouraged due to limited research and evidence of its safety and benefits

In this study published in April 2018 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the CDC specifically advises against the intake of placenta capsules.  This is because the encapsulation process does not adequately remove infectious pathogens.  Specifically, the article talks about a case of neonatal Group B Step that was passed from the mother to her baby when the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules.

Genevieve Howland aka Mama Natural claims that eating her placenta greatly improved her milk supply, but had a really negative effect on her mood. Her advice is to try it if you’re interested, and if things start to feel wonky or weird, consider stopping ingestion and see if things improve.  On the other hand, if things are going wonderfully, maybe the placenta is playing a role.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  But before you decide to ingest your placenta, definitely discuss the practice with your midwife and do some research on your own to understand the potential risks and benefits involved.  Here’s another great article from the New York Times discussing the risks in the matter of eating your placenta.

How do people eat their placenta?

If you do decide to ingest your placenta, here are some of your options.  Most commonly, women ingest their placenta after it has encapsulated.  While you can encapsulate your placenta yourself, most have it done by a placenta encapsulation service. 

In this scenario, your placenta is heated, dehydrated and ground into a powder.  It’s then put into capsules for you to take in pill form.

Others, like celebrity home birth mom Hilary Duff, choose to indulge in a raw placenta smoothie. Some mommas prefer to eat their placenta raw because nutrients are not lost in the cooking and encapsulation process.

Lastly, some mommas cook their placenta right into common recipes in the kitchen.  This article in Women’s Health Mag includes recipes for Placenta Lasagna, Placenta Chili, and Placenta Truffles.  Bon Appétit!

2. Use your placenta in a healing salve

If you’ve decided that ingesting your placenta isn’t your cup of tea, but are still interested in using it for your body’s benefit and healing, you might consider a salve.  A placenta salve is a lot less controversial than actually eating your placenta.

Mommas use a salve that includes their dried placenta for postpartum healing of C-Section scars, hemorrhoids, vaginal tearing, and other soreness. Others also use the salve for baby’s diaper rash, cradle cap, and baby acne.  If you are interested in a placenta salve, you can have one custom made!

3. Plant your placenta

Some women aren’t interested in using their placenta per se but are more interested in honoring the work this amazing organ has done.  A great option is planting your placenta.  You can plant your placenta along with a beautiful tree, bush, or perennial in your yard. 

Take it a step further and create or purchase a beautiful plaque or stepping stone to mark the spot and write a dedication to your new baby or growing family.  If you have other children, doing a DIY stepping stone kit together before the baby arrives is a fun way to bond.  You can then use it to mark the spot where you plant your placenta.

4. Preserve your placenta in a piece of jewelry

While I have definitely heard of and seen some beautiful breastmilk jewelry, I had no idea that placenta jewelry is a thing, too! In fact, many jewelers who do breastmilk jewelry also offer placenta jewelry.

This is a really unique way to preserve your placenta and honor it in a beautiful form you will treasure forever.  I’m imagining a necklace with both placenta and breastmilk charms, or stacking rings for each would be amazing.  So many cool possibilities!

5. Create a unique piece of art with your placenta

You can create a totally unique and interesting piece of art for your home using your placenta.  Many create a Tree of Life image with the placenta as the tree top and the umbilical cord as the trunk.  Here you’ll find a guide on how to create your own placenta print work of art.

You can either create a print right away using the blood that your placenta is saturated with or freeze your placenta by double bagging it and then thawing it and creating a print later. 

6. Store your placenta and decide later

If you aren’t completely sure what you want to do with your placenta, or you can’t execute your plan right away you always have the option of freezing your placenta.  Maybe you want to wait to plant your placenta in the new home you’re moving to in a few months.  Perhaps you are really interested in the jewelry route but want to shop around for options for a while.

Whatever the case may be, freezing your placenta is pretty straightforward.  In fact, your home birth midwife will probably be open to facilitate this if you discuss it with her before birth. 

After the cord has been cut, simply put the placenta into a new Ziploc bag.  Remove all the air and seal it.  Then double bag it and clearly label your placenta and the date.  Most sources say to let the placenta cool in the refrigerator before freezing it.

What will you do with your placenta, Momma?

We’ve taken a look at the claimed benefits and potential risks associated with eating your placenta.  Then we discussed a bunch of other unique ways to preserve and honor your placenta including planting, preserving it in jewelry, creating art, or having a salve made.

So what are you thinking, Momma? 

We’d love to hear your plan for what you plan to do with your placenta after your birth in the comments below!

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