Over the past 24 hours, the placenta (the organ that nourishes and oxygenates the baby whilst in utero) has been a talking point on social media. A photo published by a Brisbane photographer on Facebook (and Insty) (here) showed a little bubba still attached to the placenta, and the Maori traditions that would be practiced postnatally by his family. Which got me thinking…if this photo has received such broad recognition over something that I thought was known information, maybe the placenta and what happens to it afterwards, or ways to treasure it aren’t known?!
Let’s rewind briefly…the placenta is the huge bed of blood vessels that begins developing at implantation and imbeds itself into the uterine lining, with the umbilical cord stemming from here. Most commonly the placenta will attach to the top of side of the uterus – if you want to know where yours is out of curiosity, ask the sonographer at your next scan.
The health of your placenta is a result of lifestyle, age, nutrition, health (blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, substance abuse, smoking), etc.
After the birth of a baby, the placenta follows suit either physiologically or managed actively. Physiological management of the third stage is where the midwife and mother wait for the placenta to naturally come away from the lining of the uterus. This is method should be discussed with your midwife or doctor as there are contraindications. If you do intend to birth the placenta physiologically, a strong focus on initiating breastfeeding and skin-to-skin with baby has been documented to encourage this separation.
The other method of placental delivery is through active management (this is what is most common and implemented in Australia); whereby a mother receives an intramuscular injection with consent of a synthetic oxytocic hormone to help contract the uterus and clamp down the blood vessels…encouraging separation and minimising blood loss immediately after birth. This is the same drug that is utilised in inductions of labour to make a uterus contract.
From here the placenta, the membranes and the umbilical cord are inspected by a midwife. Unless otherwise indicated (by certain factors throughout pregnancy, birth or birth outcome) the placenta will be discarded, unless the parents want to keep it*.
*This may be something to consider antenatally if you’re thinking about going down this road. From my contact with a few hospitals, I know that they will not keep your placenta refrigerated for you whilst you are at the hospital, so organising a way in which to get it home, and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to carry out whatever you see fit, is worth a little advanced planning.
So for anyone wanting to somehow use or honour the placenta (I’m aware of how hippy dippy this sounds, but I couldn’t think of another word) here are a few to consider:
Lotus Birth is where the placenta is left attached to the baby at birth until the cord falls off on its own. Sometimes being covered with salts, herbs (rosemary and sage are often used), the placenta is then wrapped up, nappy style, so it’s not intrusive (or offensive) to some guests that may want a snuggle with bub. This is the downside to a lotus birth – so both partners need to be on board with the process for it to not hinder physical interaction with bub.
Placenta Encapsulation is when the placenta is steamed and cooked at a low temperature, dried and encapsulated into what look like ground vitamins. They are tasteless and are a way of receiving nutrients that have been suggested to:
-Help balance your hormones
-Replenish depleted iron levels
-Assist involution (the uterus returning to its pre-pregnant state over the 6 weeks post birth)
-Reduce postnatal bleeding
-Increase milk production
-Decrease the chances of postpartum depression
After speaking to other midwives one shift, a few stressed the importance of seeking out well practiced and known placental encapsulators. So, make sure you do your research beforehand and be sure to ask questions about the conditions and hygienic methods implemented throughout the process. Websites like, http://www.placentaservices.com.au/new-south-wales.html, work as directories for verified service providers.
Placental Burial is the burial of the placenta under a tree or in a garden. The nutrients of the placenta are said by green thumbs to make a great fertilizer too, which is a bonus! If you do intend to plant it in the garden, make sure you bury it deep in the ground…no one wants an animal on the hunt for it…not good, not good! Also, if you’re worried that you may end up moving one day, it can always be planted in a large pot. That way the placental plant can move with you.
Placenta Piccie – The name says it all really. Paint and dye are used to highlight the blood vessels to be printed onto paper. A keepsake that can be as colourful or monochromatic as you see fit.
What did you do with your placenta? Was it trash or treasure? x