The idea may not appeal to everyone, but many women swear that eating the placenta has several health benefits.
Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and actress January Jones have both publicly discussed consuming their after birth. If you are interested in eating your placenta or simply want to learn more, we outline the purpose of the placenta, whether you can eat it, the potential benefits and 6 ways to go about it.
What is the placenta?
After conception, the placenta is the first thing that is formed. It is an organ attached to the lining of your womb. In the uterus, it connects you to your baby and it keeps your blood supply separate from your baby's. The placenta delivers oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the foetus. The placenta also helps take away any waste that the baby makes while in the womb for your body to dispose of.
The NHS explains that "Near the end of your pregnancy, the placenta passes antibodies from you to your baby, giving them immunity for about 3 months after birth".
The placenta grows alongside the child during pregnancy but after birth, your body rejects it as it is no longer needed. The placenta will be pushed out vaginally in the same way as a baby or if you have a C-section the surgeon will remove it.
Can you eat your placenta?
You can eat your placenta and this is a growing trend amongst mums due to the potential benefits. Throughout history, many cultures have eaten the placenta (placentophagy) and eating the afterbirth is common in the animal kingdom. First of all, let the hospital know you’d like to take your placenta home with you, so they don’t get rid of it. It’s a good idea to make a note of it on your birth plan. Some hospitals policy might differ or prevent you from taking your placenta.
There are very little regulations on eating your placenta and how it is handled after birth. There can be contamination during birth which could transfer harmful bacteria making it unsafe to eat the placenta. If you do decide to eat your placenta, as with any food, you need to make sure you during preparation you do not expose it to harmful bacteria or pathogens by leaving it out too long at the wrong temperature. If you would prefer someone else to prepare it, you would have to go to a registered specialist. There are around 40 placenta specialists in the UK who you can hire to take your placenta home and prepare it for you, in any way you fancy eating it.
If you have any complications with your placenta such as placental abruption or placenta praevia then this will obviously affect your ability to consume the afterbirth. If you have any concerns you can discuss this with your doctor.
What are the benefits of eating your placenta?
Some mums believe eating the afterbirth helps avoid baby blues, boosts milk production and gives mothers a natural energy high. In terms of post-natal depression, people think eating the placenta can help to level off your hormones which can be a bit all over the place after birth. However, the benefits of placentophagy are anecdotal and some mums do not experience the positive benefits.
The benefits of eating your placenta have not been fully researched or understood. In the wild, several animals eat the afterbirth which leads some to think there must be a reason why this is beneficial. Some believe animals eat their placenta to simply get rid of the smell to protect their newborn against predators. Other research suggests it restore nutrients lost during pregnancy and can increase mother-child bonding. The placenta does contain good protein and fats but these nutrients are all part of a healthy diet.
Still tempted to eat your placenta, but not sure how to go about it? We outline a few options for your perfect postpartum dish.
6 ways to eat your placenta:
Encapsulation is the new trend in placental cuisine, especially since Mad Men star January Jones announced she popped placenta pills after the birth of her baby. A specialist can do this for you – they take your placenta after birth and cook, dehydrate and grind it into powder, before encasing it in a vegetable-based capsule.
1) Placenta pills
If you’re preparing your placenta yourself you’ll need to clean it, first by draining all the blood then rinsing it until it’s pink. Then you’ll have to cut away the umbilical cord and membranes. But, as we mentioned above, you can hire someone to do this for you.
2) Cook your placenta
The downside of eating cooked placenta is that, like any other meat product, it will eventually spoil, so you’ll have to eat it within a few days. Once it’s prepared, it’s no different from something you’d get at the butcher's, so go ahead and roast, steam, sautée or flambée – wherever the culinary winds take you. Add herbs or garlic for taste if you want. Just don’t turn it into a spag bol and serve it without telling anyone.
Fans of placentophagia – the practice of eating placenta – will tell you that every other mammal (except camels) eats their own placenta raw. Well, you can do that, too. It’s supposed to be great for boosting immediate healing after labour. It’s recommended that you cut the thoroughly rinsed placenta into very small pieces and swallow them whole, rather than chew. Just imagine they’re oysters – if you can ignore the overwhelmingly metallic smell.
3) Eat the placenta raw
We can't promise it will look as delicious as this picture suggests but this is a slightly more palatable way of eating the raw placenta. Many women blend a piece of with mixed fruits and juices. You can use any smoothie recipe you like.
4) A placenta smoothie
In 1998, Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall caused quite a kerfuffle on Channel 4 when he fried up a willing new mum’s placenta with garlic and shallots, then flambéed, puréed and served it to 20 relatives and friends as pâté with focaccia bread. Some of the guests weren’t too thrilled, but the new mum’s husband had 17 helpings.
5) Create a pâté
Funnily enough, you are recommended to avoid pâté during pregnancy due to listeria bacteria. Perhaps you've been craving it throughout and now you can finally indulge - even if it isn't quite chicken liver pâté.
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