It is the only organ that develops and grows within another organ. It is responsible for growing a healthy baby. It is the bridge between a mother and her baby in the womb. In medieval times it was said to nurture an unborn baby’s body and soul; in Indonesia, it is called the brother or sister; in Nepal, it is known as bucha-co-state, meaning baby’s friend; it is honoured as truly unique and amazing. The word ‘placenta’ derives from the Latin for cake…perhaps this is why we have birthday cake? The Lullaby Rock-a-bye baby is mused to be about birth, with the cradle representing the placenta.
The placenta is formed when the blastocyst (cell ball) embeds in the uterus, and cells start to merge with the uterine wall creating a placenta. The embryo then begins to develop, and the placenta transfers waste, nutrients and oxygen, supporting the growth of the embryo into a fetus.
Once the baby is born, the placenta follows, having served its purpose.
Have you thought about why you might want to keep it?
Many a freezer has a placenta or two in an ice cream container awaiting an appropriate moment and place to be honoured.
The placenta is such an incredible organ, and for many people, it is important to acknowledge the life-giving force of this organ. This is usually approached ceremonially, sometimes as part of a naming ceremony, with a burial of the placenta under a tree. The placenta then feeds the tree, which grows with the child. You can take a photo of your child next to their placenta tree each year. A word of caution, though – Australian natives are overwhelmed by a full placenta.
Before burial, placenta art, from prints to a small piece kept for a unique piece of jewellery, is also an option for honouring this amazing organ.
Another important option is to ingest the placenta.
There are professional services to encapsulate placentas (a dehydrating process that powders the placenta for easy consumption) and many websites with instructions for immediate raw consumption (smoothie, anyone?).
There are many rituals surrounding the burial of the placenta.
Some women will eat a small piece of the placenta raw at birth to avoid haemorrhage.
Some believe that ingesting the placenta can contribute to:
- Decrease in baby blues and postnatal depression
- Increase and enrich breast milk.
- Increase in energy.
- Decrease in lochia and postnatal bleeding.
- Decrease iron deficiency.
- Decrease insomnia and/or sleep disorders
This may or may not be the case – but if you feel compelled to do so, that is your choice.