My poor husband had a lot to come to terms with during my pregnancy, but when I told him I wanted to eat my placenta he almost choked on his tea. There was no way he was going to bring it home, he said.
Fortunately, my doula was with us at the time and she explained the benefits of eating it to him, before gently suggesting that perhaps she could take it home and freeze it and then it was there if I needed it.
The idea of eating my placenta was not a new one to me. I had intended to eat my placenta from my first pregnancy 10 years earlier, but could never bring myself to do it, especially as I am vegetarian. So, for a long time it sat in our freezer before my first husband decided it was time to make space and we buried it under a tree at the house.
Ten years older and wanting to really support my mind and body after the birth I was very keen to actually eat it this time. I also wanted to make sure I had it on hand in case I felt myself sliding into post-natal depression, or I needed a boost of energy when I found myself sleep deprived.
Before the birth my close friend regaled the story to my husband of how, following her home birth, she ordered her husband to cook up her placenta.
“I had had a difficult pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) and although the birth was smooth, I immediately felt like I needed to eat the placenta. It was so strong. My husband cooked it with garlic, bok choy and soy and it was the most beautiful, delicious thing I had ever eaten. I felt like I was getting nourished,” she said.
The decision to eat my placenta was made for me and my squeamishness about it quickly dissipated after I haemorrhaged delivering it. As soon as things calmed down in the room my doula quickly had the midwife cut off a sliver of the placenta and slipped it under my tongue.
I was surprised how readily I accepted this piece of me and how right it felt. I felt an almost instant calm and sense of strength returning to my weak body and instead of feeling repulsed I would have readily accepted more.
My doula then had the placenta packaged up by the hospital and my husband had to sign a form saying we would not doing anything untoward with it before dutifully carrying it home to put in our freezer for my return from hospital.
The haemorrhage had left me incredibly weak and in the days that followed the birth, before lunch each day my husband would slice off a couple of thin pieces while I stood holding my hand out with my head turned the other way and quickly slipped them into my mouth. I am incredibly squeamish so I think if I had looked it would have been very hard to swallow it.
Later, my doula arrived for a visit and she sliced off pieces which she wrapped in foil and I could take a piece from the foil and swallow it down with a gulp of water like a pill, without having to look at it.
When I haemorrhaged, I lost a lot of blood, but I think I regained my strength relatively quickly thanks to my magical placenta.
Moran Liviani, who runs a placenta encapsulation business called 2lifedoula said the demand from women wanting to have their placentas turned into pills is rapidly increasing to the point where she is having trouble keeping up the demand.
“Women are booking my service as soon as they become pregnant. In the past, it used to be the crunchy mums. Now it is more mainstream, corporate mums,” she said.
“Most women contacting me have had post-natal depression previously and they are wanting a little more assistance in healing. A lot are having caesareans and they are needing the hormones from the placenta to help with bonding and breastfeeding,” Moran said.
She said the placenta contains oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is essential for post birth bonding and mothering, prolactin, to help with milk supply, iron needed to counteract the blood loss and CRH which is associated with balancing moods.
While there have been no scientific studies, other than on rats, into the benefits of eating the placenta, Moran said one study looking at women’s personal experience of eating found 40 per cent had an improvement to their moods and 98 per cent said they would eat it again.
Placenta encapsulation costs around $400 and depending on the size of the placenta a woman will get about 100 pills.
Moran strongly recommended women only use practitioners listed on the Placenta Services Australia website, who are certified specialists.
As more women are choosing to eat their placentas, there is no doubt the growing trend in Hollywood of stars espousing the benefits of eating their placenta is having an impact. Alicia Silverstone’s husband calls her placenta pills her happy pills, while Girls actress Gaby Hoffmann adds it to her morning smoothie.
Would you eat your own placenta?