Day 17: Deep Thoughts About Placentophagy

June 5th, 2015

Joslyn Hamilton, freelance editor and writer, Salt Lake City, Utah

I‘m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

I worship cleanly at the altar of science, but sometimes I can still be pretty woo-woo.

Let’s talk about the fact that I ate my own placenta. When I first heard that this was a thing, I was disgusted. I actually remember the exact moment. It was a few years ago, and I was hiking by myself at Phoenix Lake in San Anselmo, California. I was listening to a Moth podcast, a story told by a dude who had to endure his wife’s insistence on eating her own placenta after giving birth. Something about a dinner party and a sauté. I was horrified by this story and immediately texted my close friend Vanessa, who was pregnant at the time.

“Can you even deal?” I texted her. “Some people actually eat their own placentas!”

We then had a mildly awkward exchange where Vanessa let me know that she was, in fact, planning to eat her own placenta.

So I texted another close friend, Karen, who had just had a baby. “Dude. Vanessa is going to eat her own placenta.”

“I did that,” she replied.

I was shocked. What were all my grounded, intelligent friends doing practicing icky autocannibalism?

Cut to a few years later, when, you guessed it, I ate my own placenta.

Before you hurl and stop reading, please know that it did not actually involve sautéing or chewing. I hired a local doula with expertise in these things to pick up my fresh, juicy placenta at the hospital right after I gave birth, and she took it home to dehydrate, pulverize, and encapsulate it (well, them—I had two placentas, lucky me). Twenty-four hours later, she brought me back a cute little jar filled with pills made of my own cremated placenta. I then took three to six capsules a day for the next month of my life.

Yes, I was technically eating my own flesh. But, hear me out. It’s supposed to be incredible for helping with postpartum recovery, easing the intensity of postpartum depression, and increasing breast milk.

And I already bite my nails, so no big deal. (Too far? Sorry.)

I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea, nor can I say with conviction that it helped me in any way, but I felt good about doing everything I could to make both me and my babies happy and healthy after the birth.

Cut to yesterday, when I saw a headline on my local news site:

Eating your placenta isn’t good for you after all, study reveals.

Oopsie daisy.

Here’s the thing about headlines, though. If you’re a lazy person (like me) you might be tempted to get all your news from reading just headlines, and make assumptions about what lies within the article. I was really tempted to do this, in this case, but I forced myself to take the roughly 90 seconds it takes to read a news article online. My Internet-friend Amelia pointed out that all the studies they cited were done on animals, and also gave me a link to a website that hints at a human-based study due out next year.

I also consulted with my acupuncturist and very good friend Caylie See, who happens to have a baby girl only two months older than mine, and who specializes in working with pregnant and hoping-to-get-pregnant ladies. She sent me back some more research arguing in favor of eating one’s own placenta. She also said, and I quote, “Probably no one wants to study the favorability of placentophagy in Western medicine, where [the placenta is] considered biohaz!” In other words, not a lot of scientists are willing to look for positive effects of placentophagy—the fancy word for “I just ate my own placenta.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means science hasn’t officially proven them yet.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with all this, except to say that I think there is room for both science and comforting hypothesis when it comes to post-natal health. I don’t know if ingesting my own placenta actually did anything for me after the birth of my girls, but it certainly gave me comfort in knowing that I was doing everything I could to make our transition a smooth one. Maybe that’s a worthwhile thing, maybe not.

Jury (and science) is out on the actual benefits of placenta encapsulation, but one thing I do know for sure: eating my own placentas was worth it for the shock-value and the hippie street cred.

Even my mom only buried hers and planted a tree. So.


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2 Responses to “Day 17: Deep Thoughts About Placentophagy”

  1. Amelia says:

    It’s a right of passage. Despite the findings, I’m still planning to eat mine.
    And I’m curious, did you’re girls share the placenta you ate, or did you really eat two and you’re not telling us the whole truth?
    This was hilarious Joslyn. Thanks for sharing.

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