A FEW days ago, I came across an article about the dangers of eating placenta post-birth.
The article came about after a confession by actress January Jones who admitted to eating her own placenta when she’s feeling tired or blue.
“Your placenta gets dehydrated and made into vitamins. It’s something I was very hesitant about, but we’re the only mammals who don’t ingest our own placentas,” said the Mad Men star.
I thought this was only an Asian belief. I guess I was wrong.
Placentophagy is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after birth.
The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin which stimulates the shrinking of the uterus to its former size, as well as small amounts of oxytocin which eases birth stress and causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk.
Because of this, advocates say that eating the placenta helps increase milk flow and also eases post-partum depression.
Others swear by its nutritious goodness in treating diseases, infertility, impotence and other conditions.
Obstetrician and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Maggie Blott on the other hand, disputes the post-natal depression theory, stating there is no medical reason to eat the placenta.
She explains that animals eat their placentas to get nutrition, but humans are generally well-nourished, so there is no benefit nor a reason to do it. However, there is a growing trend of mothers asking to take home their placenta and a small, exclusive group of professionals who will prepare it.
I was one of those mothers.
When I was carrying my firstborn Isobel, taking home my placenta was part of my birthplan.
My friend Ailyn, convinced me that it was her placenta soup that had a positive effect on her immune system and mood after delivering her first and second child. She claimed that she was very energetic and stronger than she was prior to bring pregnant, so I naively believed her (she looked amazing too! So stop with the raised eyebrows please).
My family and friends were alarmed over my decision to keep the placenta for my consumption later — some thought it was unnatural and was leaning towards cannibalism, others just thought it was ironic knowing how fussy I was with food and uneasy about squeamish dishes.
I had heard of an “encapsulation specialist” who would clean, cook, dehydrate and ground the baby’s afterbirth into consumable pills.
Ailyn had hers cooked in a ‘Ba Kut Teh-inspired’ broth.
Another friend of hers ate it like steak. I had not decided what to make of my afterbirth cuisine, but keeping the placenta intact, was part of my birthplan priorities — with or without the consent of those around me.
(Un)fortunately, I never got around to ingesting my own placenta because my confinement lady would not have me eating it under her care.
And after my confinement period was over, I forgot all about it and by the time I remembered having it stored in the freezer, it had shrunk in size and looked so disturbingly pathetic and gross, that all thoughts of eating it went flying out the window and I threw it away.
Now, I will never know the truth behind eating one’s placenta. But I do know that eating one’s placenta is common practice in certain cultures and although there is no study to prove that it is bad to observe this practice, neither are there empirical studies to prove otherwise.
Is this trend wholesome or bizarre?
To each their own I suppose. Some mothers believe in the whole 44 days of confinement. Some mothers are quick to start working a week after delivering.
I’m just curious about what placenta tastes like. Chicken?
Daphne is a TV anchor, emcee and mother to two girls. Daphne reckons, had she gone through the whole process of eating her placenta, she would have chosen baking them into muffins with some chopped parsley on top. Yay or Nay? Tweet her at @daphCLPT or email her your thoughts/stories at email@example.com. Oh! Selamat Hari Gawai!