A Facebook group that I am an Admin for (along with 2 amazing women, Jen Hazi and Amelia Parkinson) has ‘Lives’ on pregnancy and birth topics every Monday evening (click HERE for details of the group!). Last week, Jen and I discussed placentas - cool facts, its function and traditions and superstitions around around them. A summary of our conversation is below:
Your placenta is unique, powerful and amazing - just like your body. It is often misunderstood or left as an afterthought but it is a significant part of your pregnancy and responsible for keeping both of you healthy and getting your pregnancy to full term. So why do I (and many birth workers) love the placenta so much? Here is a little bit of an overview.....
Some Cool Facts
Did you know that your placenta is your baby's genetic twin? In the early stages of your pregnancy the blastocyst (pre-embryo) divides and some cells go on to form your baby and the rest go on to form your baby's placenta.
It is your body's only disposable organ. It is grown for purpose and discarded at the end of pregnancy.
The blood of both the mother and baby pass through the placenta but never mix, in fact they pass through separate arteries in the placenta - it's such a complex and amazing set up!
The placenta acts as both an organ and a gland. An organ because it is a body part that performs a specific function and a gland because it produces and secretes hormones. Just like mum, it's a great multi-tasker :)
Your placenta has several functions - it delivers oxygen, nutrients and antibodies to your baby, as well as filtering out waste.
At around 10-12 weeks your placenta takes over the role of producing pregnancy hormones. This is also why many of your pregnancy symptoms subside around this time.
Traditions - New and Old
You can opt for your care providers to dispose of your placenta if you don't want to do anything with it, but a lot of people do want to keep it - either for connection, commemoration or consumption. Some of these options are outlined below:
Burial - some people opt to bury their placenta, perhaps under a plant that blooms around the time of your baby's birthday. Traditional cultures such as the Maori, bury their placentas on their tribal lands and believe that this increases the child's connection to their lands.
Smoothies - some people make a smoothie with some or all of their placenta. You can just blend it up with a good pour of chocolate sauce or pop a small chunk in the blender with berries and coconut water - it's supposed to be delicious!
Encapsulation - a popular way to consume your placenta is to have it encapsulated. A trained professional will dehydrate it, blitz it and put it into capsules for easy consumption.
Tincture - part of the placenta is steeped in alcohol and this forms a treatment that will last long after your capsules have finished. The tincture is said to be beneficial for emotional support during times of hormonal fluctuations such as postpartum, premenstrual and menopause.
Umbilical Cord Keepsake - some encapsulators offer this service, the cord is dried and formed into shapes such as a heart, a spiral or the word 'love'
Placenta Prints - paint is applied to the placenta and a print is made. These can be beautiful and often look like trees