The popular belief is that the placenta is a bio-hazard that must be discarded as soon as possible, but I assure you- your placenta is an amazing organ and just tossing it out or incinerating it is wasting precious resources for you, your baby, or your garden.
In most hospitals, where the majority of women are giving birth- they make it seem like taking your placenta home with you is something only a crazy person would do, or they make you go through quite a bit of red tape in order take home what rightfully belongs to you.
Just like anything else at the hospital- you can decline the pathology report in order to take your placenta home with you when you leave, or a family member can take it and put in the the fridge or freezer as soon as possible in order to maintain freshness. It’s a good idea to take your own tupperware to take you placenta home as some hospitals do not provide containers. A zip lock freezer bag works great too.
So after your placenta has delivered, ask your provider give you the “placenta tour,” as I call it. Have them show you what side was attached to the uterine wall, the membranes, and where baby spent the last 9 months of her life. There is an awesome part of the placenta called the “tree of life” where the vessels go into and out of the placenta where the umbilical cord is attached. It’s truly fascinating and when the placenta is still “fresh” or the vessels are still full, it is a great opportunity to get a placenta print.
Here’s how you do that: partner or doula can inform the nurses that you intend to make placenta prints prior to the birth so everyone is aware of what will be happening before the placenta is delivered. Before the birth, I recommend going to the local paper supply/art store to get a heavy weight, cold pressed watercolor paper. You will need something that is larger than 8.5 x 11 as placentas can be pretty big. I also recommend getting at least 5 sheets of paper so you can make more than one print.
Next: after the placenta has been delivered and mom and baby are settled in, gather some chucks pads (those blue and white pads that the nurses are always putting under mom’s bum), some gloves (they are usually in a box hanging on the wall near the door), and your baby’s placenta, and put it all near the movable table by mom so she can watch as she rests in bed.
OK- now you lay out the chucks pad on the table, don your gloves, and prepare to touch the placenta. It’s a solid organ, but like a liver, very “gooshy” and slippery, so be careful when picking it up. Lay the placenta uterine side down with the membranes out of the way. What you’ll be looking at is the tree of life, and that is what you will be printing.
You have two choices for your printing medium, either blood, or paint. Usually it’s blood because paint is hard to come by at the hospital unless you bring your own. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
To do paint you will:
- pat dry the placenta with a paper towel and then dab on the paint with another paper towel.
- Then you will take off your gloves, pick up your paper and place it on top of the placenta,
- gently press the paper onto the placenta and then lift the paper straight up.
- Turn over the paper and look at your print.
You can make as many prints as you want, remembering to use gloves whenever you touch the placenta, but taking the gloves off when handling the paper to avoid extraneous blood or paint getting on the paper.
To use the placental blood you will do the same thing as will paint, only you will be using blood. There is no need to pat the placenta dry, but dabbing blood is harder with a paper towel so scooping blood from the placenta’s container with your hand is easier. Once you have what looks like an adequate amount of blood on the placenta make a print as mentioned before by placing the paper on top of the placenta, pressing gently and then lifting straight up.
Congratulations! You now have a placenta print.
But what am I supposed to do with a placenta print, you ask?
I say frame it and put it on baby’s wall as a beautiful reminder of the great and marvelous task the placenta had in helping to nourish, and sustain your baby.
So after you made some fabulous placenta prints, what are you going to do with your placenta?
I recommend consuming it.
Yes, eating it in some form or another.
While usual convention tells us this is gross, nasty, dangerous, whatever explicatives you want to use, cultures around the world have been consuming the placenta in one way or another, and in those cultures postpartum depression is virtually non-existent. This probably because all the rich nutrients and proteins in the placenta are going back into mom, providing deep, restorative nourishment to help mom replenish herself after a draining pregnancy and birth, and baby also benefits from the placenta through the breastmilk.
Now, along the lines of the raw food genre of cooking- or non-cooking as the case may be- the placental nutrients are left intact and available to mom only if it isn’t cooked or cooked at a low temperature. This leaves out the lasagna and other high temp cooking options. Placenta lasagna can also be very un-palatable for most people, so a nice alternative is to get your placenta made into placenta medicine.
The process for making placenta medicine is usually based on traditional chinese medicinal techniques where the placenta is either steamed first, or not, with herbs and then dried. It is next ground into a fine powder and put into capsules for consumption.
A friend of mine who experienced severe postpartum depression (PPD) with her second baby decided to be proactive and do everything in her power to prevent if from happening again, so when her third baby came around she chose to have her placenta made into capsules. She ended up not experiencing any PPD and is a happy, well-adjusted mother 0f 3 today.
In the Denver area we have several people who make placenta medicine at a very low cost. If this is an option that appeals to you, please contact me
and I will forward along some information to you.
Another option for the placenta that does not involve eating it is planting it in your garden or with a tree. Many new families like to commemorate the birth of a baby by buying a favorite flowering tree and then having a planting ceremony in their yard. After digging a hole large enough for the tree, dig a little deeper and then place the placenta in the hole, cover with a bit of dirt, and then put the tree in. Most families enjoy this method because they have a beautiful reminder of the new baby every year, and more trees can be added as children are born. If your baby is born during the winter when planting is not ideal, it is OK to freeze the placenta until spring time.
So think about what you would like to do with your placenta instead of having it tossed out with the trash, or incinerated. It’s a beautiful organ that worked so hard to bring your baby into this world. Take the time to honor it in some way that works best for you.