The Placenta—Not Just For Pregnancy Anymore!

courtneyOh, the placenta.

By now, you probably know about the important role this organ plays during pregnancy, including supplying the fetus with nutrients and disposing of waste.

But did you know that in some cultures, it’s customary to eat the placenta, and in others to bury it and plant a tree in its place?! Despite the eww factor, the placenta is awe-inspiring in all that it can do.

Guest writer Courtney Bonfante has sent us a rather intriguing list of things to do with (you guessed it!) the placenta. You might be surprised to learn what some people are doing with it after birth…

The Placenta—Not Just For Pregnancy Anymore!

What’s considered a medicinal panacea, a source of wall art, and a smoothie ingredient? Here’s a hint: it’s also the one and only disposable organ found in nature. Give up? It’s the placenta!

Most well known for being your baby’s nutrient supply while in the womb, generations of mothers around the world have long had ceremonial customs centering on the placenta. While most placentas in the US simply leave the hospital as medical waste, there has been a renewed interest in commemorating the placenta in a variety of ways.

Placenta Prints – Using ink, th e placenta is pressed against a sheet of paper to create an image of the organ. Afterwards, the print is kept as a commemoration of the pregnancy and birth along with the ultrasound photos and baby’s first hospital cap. Some families frame this unique work of art and hang it proudly on their walls.

Ingestion – Similar to the idea that every mother’s breast milk is tailored for her individual baby’s needs, some believe that the placenta is ripe with hormones and nutrients to help mothers deal with the post-partum period. The placenta has been credited with helping to heal a variety of symptoms, from low milk supply to the baby blues. Some moms who practice placenta ingestion boil it with herbs to make a broth, add a small piece to a smoothie, or even use it as an ingredient in a tincture to aid both mother and child throughout their lives.

Encapsulation – Another method of ingestion that has been practiced in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries is placenta encapsulation. In this method, the placenta is dehydrated, pulverized and encapsulated into gelatin pills. Some moms freeze these pills and use them throughout their lives, well into the menopause years, as a panacea for a host of symptoms for both mom and child.

Tree of Life – In many cultures around the world, it’s tradition to bury the placenta in the ground. After giving the placenta a year to distribute its nutrients into the Earth, the family plants a tree in the same spot to commemorate the child’s birth. The tree serves as a visual tribute to the child throughout his or her life.

Lotus Birth – Some women believe that the placenta has the potential to deliver even more nutrients to the baby after birth and opt to have what is called a “lotus birth.” In this type of birth, mom opts to leave the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the baby until it falls off on its own a few days later. Moms who practice this type of birth believe that “cutting the cord” is unnecessary and prohibits the placenta from giving the baby all it can give.

Teddy Bear – Toy inventor Alex Green created a very ingenious kit for those who’d like to commemorate their placenta in a truly unique way. His “Twin Teddy Kit” allows mom to create a teddy bear keepsake for her child out of her cured and treated placenta.  Green, who debuted this kit at a sustainable toy convention in 2009, believes the “Twin Teddy Kit”  “celebrates the unity of the infant, mother and placenta.”

Courtney Bonfante

Courtney Bonfante lives in the Hudson Valley in NY. She’s the proud mom of Liliana, the 3 year old up-and-coming fashionista/comedienne extrodinare. When she’s not tending to her family, Courtney can be found at her day job in the online marketing world or updating her blog for the moms in the greater Newburgh, NY area. Courtney hopes that someday her work will inspire world peace….or make someone, somewhere laugh.

How did you commemorate your placenta—or did you? Does your culture have any interesting placenta rituals?

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