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Why You Might Want to Eat Your Placenta

An expert gives us the When, How and Why for ingesting your placenta postpartum.

Why You Might Want to Eat Your Placenta

I am due at any moment with my first child. Part of my birth plan is to keep my placenta so that I can have it encapsulated to consume as part of my postpartum recovery regimen.

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and a women’s health and fertility expert, I have been recommending postpartum placenta consumption for over a decade. Most women in my practice look at me like I’m crazy when I encourage them to keep and encapsulate their placentas, but there are many reasons to do so.

How to Do

First, let’s quickly get past the ‘do I have to handle my own placenta’ worry since the encapsulation part is quite easy. There are services out there, usually run by postpartum doulas. For about $300, they will come to the hospital, pick up your placenta (that has been placed in a cooler that you provide), take it away, dehydrate it, encapsulate it and return it to you the next day. So all you have to do is birth your placenta (which you will do anyway) and bring a cooler to the hospital with you. Easy peasy.

Why to Do It:

As I said, I am practitioner of TCM and in the realm of the medicine I practice, ingesting one’s placenta post-birth has been recommended for the last several thousand years. In the TCM philosophy, the placenta is not only what has nourished your baby in utero—it is a major source of nutrients, namely blood, Qi (pronounced chee—which is the basic substance of life and where our energy comes from as seen in TCM) and essence (which, in TCM, is the equivalent of our genetic foundation; essence is seen to decline as we age and or with major health events such as pregnancy and giving birth).

So, as I was taught: the placenta is the best source of postpartum nourishment for a woman as she can literally take back in her own blood, qi and essence to speed her recovery from the taxing process of pregnancy and birth. Additionally, having this extra blood, Qi and essence from the placenta helps generate healthy, nutrient dense breast milk for the mother to share with her child. And, this extra source of blood, Qi and essence is thought to help ward off any postpartum health issues such as depression, fatigue and hormonal imbalances.

The Evidence:

Interestingly, the benefits of placenta ingesting that TCM has touted for thousands of years have made their way to the mainstream and now many people are following suit. To date, the evidence that speaks to the upsides of supplementing with your placenta post-partumly is mostly anecdotal. However, there are a handful of studies that have found that placenta ingestion helps with breast milk production, enhancing the nutrition of breast milk, mediating postpartum pain relief, restoring the original size of the uterus and balancing hormones. As well, upon nutritional breakdown the placenta has shown to be rich in amino acids, minerals, vitamins, protective antibodies, growth factors—all of which can help restore and regenerate health.

The Questions:

This may still sound a bit hokey to you, but if we look historically at other mammalian species, the placenta is most always ingested right after the animal gives birth to their young. Some believe these mammals do so for nutrition or because food is scarce and that well nourished humans don’t need to eat their placentas. But, who knows. The true benefits are definitely up for debate as there isn’t a ton of research out there. However, my 10 years of clinical experience--and gut instincts--tell me it definitely can’t hurt. The key is to pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. If you feel benefits from ingesting your placenta, then do it. If you are taking it post-partumly and not feeling the reported potential benefits then stop. It’s as simple as that.

Plan of Action:

If you do decide to eat your placenta, my recommended plan of action for post-partum placenta ingestion is:

  • Take about 1.5-4 grams per day of your placenta as soon as possible post birth. The key is to start on a low dose and slowly build up until you see desired results.
  • Take your placenta pills for only the first 14 days post birth, unless you are severely anemic, experiencing postpartum depression or lactation issues. Then continue to take them for another 7-14 days. Again, pay attention to how you are feeling and let your body be your guide.
  • Begin taking your placenta pills again when your period returns IF you are experiencing any menstrual irregularities such as erratic periods, pre menstrual syndrome or heavy bleeding. As well, if you are planning to conceive again, taking your placenta pills from the last day of your period until one to two days post ovulation can help improve your fertility.
  • Lastly, save some of your pills for when you enter into menopause as they are thought to help ease that hormonal transition.

One last thing to mention, in TCM, we don’t usually recommend placenta pills be taken on their own but in conjunction with an individualized Chinese herbal prescription. To further enhance the positive effects of taking your placenta and to aid in postpartum recovery, seek out the advice of an NCCAOM certified Chinese Herbalist NCCAOM.org.

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These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

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