POST-BIRTH OPTIONS: YOUR PLACENTA PLANNING GUIDE
But things aren't always what they appear to be- and that bloody, vein covered placenta? It is amazing.
What if I told you that the placenta actually forms during the very beginning stages of cell division? Some cells divide to become your baby, and the other cells go on to form the placenta.
Take a moment to consider all of what it has done for your baby. Delivering nutrients and filtering out unwanted wastes, delivering hormones. The placenta is attached to both mother and baby in the most basic, beautiful, reciprocal relationship. It is the baby's lifeline.
The branch-like appearance of the veins has inspired images of the placenta being likened to the tree of life.
Your placenta has been what your baby has first touched, a soft, warm, tactile comfort that it has known and grown with since your baby's very existence.
OK AWESOME: you know how incredible the placenta is... now what to do with it?
1. Eat it: There is speculation that immediate consumption of placenta, and/or chewing on the umbilical cord, results in less blood-loss immediately postpartum. This option is sometimes recommended immediately after the placenta has been delivered.
Alternatively, you could cut a slice off and make it into a smoothie. Any way you like your smoothies- just pop a bit in for a nutritious boost (If giving birth in a hospital you may like to organise a (really good) friend, family member or doula to take some of the placenta home and prepare and bring the smoothie back to the hospital).
2. Encapsulate it: there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that consumption of the placenta leads to less postpartum anxiety/depression, increases milk supply, stabilises mood swings and is overall amazing. And it's almost impossible to distinguish from its original form in those lovely little capsules so.... bottoms up!?
3. Print it: You can D.I.Y. this or leave it in the hands of the professionals. There are birth-centric Doulas and artists out there who will creatively print your placenta onto paper for you to frame. So why not decorate your baby's room with a likeness of it's previous womb-mate?!
4. Take it Home and Bury it: If the thought of eating something that was once half of your baby's first cells puts you off, but you want to thank that beautiful placenta for sustaining your baby's pre-natal life, consider taking it home and burying it. This is actually also appropriate disposal of the placenta for a variety of cultural and religious groups.
Keeping placenta buried close to baby is also meant to create a feeling of well-being and good attachment for the baby.
5. Make a Homeopathic Tincture: This is cool because it can literally last a life-time. Once you have the 'mother tincture' it can be used to create an ongoing supply. In a nutshell the placenta/cord is added to an alcoholic solution (e.g. Brandy). A drop is then taken from this mixture and added to a smaller bottle (1/100 drop ratio) and succussed (tapped/shaken). This is then repeated again and again- the shaking of the smaller bottle is repeated, the stronger the remedy is said to become (here is a more detailed explanation).
People use these tinctures in times of stress/anxiety/unrest to remind their child of the closeness and bond that was shared with their mother in the womb. A sort of bringing-back-to-family tonic. It can also be done with just the cord, which is great if you want to combine it with the other options.
6. Make Jewellery: There are women who, if you send them a capsule or three of your placenta will create the most beautiful rings and charms for you to wear your baby's placenta with you. If you are worried that this is a little unusual never fear, no-one else has to know why your jewellery is so gorgeous if you don't want them to.
7. Make a Dream Catcher: This combines the assumed protective power of that life-bringing placenta, with the Native American practice of creating dream-catchers to ward off bad dreams. Basically the cord is shaped and then wrapped in wool/silk to form the outer circle. These can be truly beautiful to look at too.
8. Make Umbilical Cord Art: While it is soft you can create a word/shape with the cord and then dry it out so that it retains this shape. This service can also be done by professionals.
9. Practise Lotus Birth: Another practice that has a lot of symbolic meaning is to leave the placenta and cord attached to the baby until it falls off naturally. Women chose to do this as a way of letting nature take its course. Should you wish to do this you would need to salt the placenta, sometimes with herbs. You would also need a bag to keep it in and make sure that it dries in an appropriate position for changing and bathing (Sarah Buckley gives an in-depth introduction to Lotus Birth here).
10. Do Nothing: You have to deliver it (here is an excellent article on the third-stage of labour) - but after that, if you don't want to ever see it you don't have to. The hospital will take it and most likely incinerate it.
Also known as standard procedure- it's the less romantic option- but I'm sure it's appealing to some.
Take some photos: then send it on its merry way to the incinerator.
There you have it! Now all you have to do is make the decision.