Our appprentice, Hayley, is also a placenta specialist. She encapsulates, makes tinctures and cord keepsakes for many of our families and her private clients. She has written this great article about all the things you can do with your placenta. When Sarah and I were having babies, most homebirth families buried the placenta and planted a tree or some other plant on the site. This is a lovely and meaningful choice. In the last few years we’ve seen an explosion of interest in placenta medicine. So many choice! What do you want to do with this amazing organ that nourished your baby months?
by Hayley Duke; Placenta Specialist, Doula, Apprentice Midwife
Most people see the placenta as that thing that comes out after the baby is born, the afterbirth. In the hospital they take it away, but what do they do with it? Usually, the placenta is sent to pathology for analysis per policies. After they analyze it, it is thrown into a bucket with formaldehyde and tossed into the biohazard waste. After your baby is born, the placenta likely won’t be on the forefront of your mind but try not to forget about this beautiful organ that transferred oxygenated blood and nutrition to your baby throughout the course of your pregnancy. Here is a list of 7 things you can do with your placenta instead of tossing.
1. Encapsulate It.
The most popular form of encapsulating is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The first recording of using placenta in the form of medicine was by a pharmacist in China in 1578. It was started to be used in 1980 in America by a midwife who studied TCM. Encapsulation works by dehydrating the placenta and then grinding it up into a powder. The powder is then placed into vegetarian capsules. Your placenta is filled with wonderful things like: iron, vitamins B6 (aids in the making of antibodies), vitamin E (heals damaged skin cells), corticotropin-releasing hormone (reduces stress levels), oxytocin (known as the feel good hormone-essential for successful breastfeeding), and more!
2. Turn it Into a Tincture.
Turning your placenta into a tincture is just another great way to ingest the nutritional benefits. A tincture only takes a small piece of placenta so if you’d like to, you are still able to encapsulate it as well- in fact, a lot of Placenta Specialists will even offer you a discount for doing both. To make a tincture, the small piece of placenta steeps in 100 proof alcohol inside a dark colored glass bottle for at least 6 weeks. After 6 weeks you are able to take the tincture on as ‘as needed’ basis. The average recommended dosage is 7-10 drops held under the tongue for 60 seconds or more drops if going to be diluted in juice. This dose can be taken a few times per day but as always, listen to your body. The tincture has been useful for many women from PMS to menopause and can even be used for the teething infant. A tincture is a great choice if encapsulation isn’t an option for you, it is simple to do at home and the shelf life is indefinite.
3. Placenta Art.
Placenta art can be something as simple as a placenta print to something very complex like placenta jewelry. A placenta print takes very little time and supplies, here’s what you do: Get a large piece of paper or canvas, paint or food coloring if you want to encapsulate afterwards, and some cotton swabs. Lay your placenta out on a clean surface, vein side up (this is the fetal side) and pat dry with a paper towel. If you want to be really creative, you can turn the umbilical cord into a fun shape or letter. Then take your paintbrush or cotton swabs and paint the entire placenta and umbilical cord. You can do a mix of colors or just one – whatever suits you. After everything is painted, take your paper or canvas and place it right on top of the placenta. The color from the placenta will transfer onto the paper. You can do this as many times as you’d like, just make sure to wipe the placenta down with a paper towel between prints. This is a fun project the whole family can get involved with. Have fun! Placenta jewelry is very time consuming and takes a lot of practice, with a quick Etsy search you can find instructions to do it yourself or someone to do it for you.
Yum! Placenta smoothies are a delicious way to enjoy the benefits of your placenta immediately after birth. There are many benefits for consuming raw placenta, including: it promotes faster healing, aids in easing into the hormonal transition, helps to prevent baby blues, decreases postpartum blood loss, replaces iron, vitamin B6, protein, and minerals. This is a quick and easy way to consume your placenta and like the tincture, it only takes a small chunk so you’re still able to use your placenta for something else that interests you. You can use any smoothie recipe but this one is my favorite:
Tropical Raw Placenta Smoothie Recipe
- 3 inch chunk of placenta
- ½ Cup frozen or fresh mango
- ½ Cup frozen or fresh strawberries
- ¼-¾ Orange juice (depending on consistency preference)
- 1-2 Tbsp Flax seed (optional)
- 2-3 Ice cubes
Blend ingredients together until you reach the desired consistency. Serve immediately. Contact a placenta specialist for proper placenta storage instructions to ensure a healthy placenta.
Some people like to have one placenta smoothie right away after the birth and then encapsulate the rest, while others like to have several smoothie. If you would like to save your placenta to make more smoothies, have someone cut the placenta into small 3 inch or so pieces. Place those pieces spaced out on a baking sheet so they’re not touching. Throw the baking sheet into the freezer for a few hours until completely frozen. Once frozen, store pieces in a double bagged freezer zip loc. It is very important to use proper handling- clean utensils, supplies, work space, and wash hands thoroughly.
If this sounds like to much work after you’ve just had a baby, no worries! Placenta specialists are happy to come to your home, hospital, or birth center to prepare a smoothie for you!
5. Lotus Birth.
The act of lotus birthing is leaving baby, umbilical and placenta attached for days while the umbilical and placenta dry out, naturally and gently detaching from baby. Lotus birth is the biological way to sever the bond. This is encouraged by rubbing salts and herbs into the raw placenta to preserve the tissue. It is a common misconception that you cannot choose both lotus birth and placenta encapsulation. As long as the placenta is taken care of properly and diligently during the lotus birth, the salting preserves the tissue, similar to salting fish or meat, and the placenta can be rinsed, steamed, dehydrated and put into capsules. Another benefit of lotus birth is it truly encourages the mother to take a babymoon. The babymoon is the period after birth in which the mother is lying with her newborn, bonding, nursing and cuddling skin to skin.
6. Bury It.
Burying your placenta in the garden or under your favorite tree is a wonderful way to honor the life sustaining organ. Not only will you always know where it is, the placenta also makes a great fertilizer. Remember to bury it at least 1 foot deep so you won’t have to worry about it being dug up by any curious animals.
7. Donate It.
There are plenty of people and organizations that would love to have your placenta. Call around to your local midwives, doulas and placenta specialists. Sometimes these birth workers are studying the placenta or training their students to know what is normal and what isn’t, therefore they need to see a lot of placentas. Your placenta can also be donated to be used for medical purposes to help other people (yes, placentas are just that awesome!) www.placentadonation.com is a good place to start if you’re interested in learning more about that.
Hayley is a doula, placenta encapsulator and apprentice midwife serving the Twin Cities and surrounding areas.. She believes in families and loves discussing anything related to pregnancy, birth, and babies. If you have any questions or just want to chat, she is available by phone or email.