Are you pregnant, and wondering what to do with your placenta when all is said and done? Maybe you have one tucked away in your freezer, newly discovered after a recent spring clean of the freezer-burned leftovers (not judging, I may have done this...). Either way, here you are, searching the internet for answers.
Placenta encapsulation, placenta smoothies, placenta tacos...the internet is rife with information on how to make your next postpartum meal gourmet - with your placenta.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about using that incredible tree of life organ to relieve or prevent postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum depression, increase milk supply, and any number of the purported uses claimed by ingesting your placenta postpartum. Personally, I've used a tincture, I've eaten placenta "truffles" (because, chocolate, hello), taken placenta capsules, even blended it raw into a smoothie. But not everyone wants to eat something that just came out of their body.
So, here are five things you can do with that awesome organ, that aren't eating it.
1. Bury it in the yard - "Planting" your Placenta
Dig a hole and place your placenta inside. Easy as burying a body. Er...It's really more beautiful than it sounds. I've seen pictures of people making special ceremonies about it - read a poem, wrap the placenta in a (bio-degradable) package or basket, make it part of your postpartum recovery. Bonus points if you ask your mother-in-law to do it (just kidding) or your postpartum doula (not kidding - they probably would!).
You could include some flower bulbs or plant a tree that will bloom over the top of it and grow with your baby!
There are actually a lot of cultures that do this, believing the placenta is the "twin" of their baby, deserving of a proper and respectful burial.
2. Make a placenta print
Not sure where you would hang this one, but it's a great conversation starter, at least.
Quips aside, I think these really are a beautiful way to preserve your placenta. Different kinds of paint/food color can be used so you can still ingest it (if you want). I love how easy it is to see the "tree of life" the placenta represents for your baby when it's printed like this.
One thing to be wary of: the print needs to be done when the placenta is still relatively fresh, so it's not possible after freezing or after lotus birth (see below).
3. Make placenta jewelry
It's not as weird as you think. Placenta is dehydrated, ground up, and the powder is set in resin and mounted as the centerpiece in beads, rings, etc.
In fact, there's a local business here in Utah called "Milk and Honey Keepsakes", where they make truly GORGEOUS rings, necklaces, and beads from your choice of dried placenta, breast milk, and/or locks of your baby's hair, even adding shimmering glitter to make it shine. It's a great gift for someone healing from a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other loss.
You can also make a keepsake out of the umbilical cord. In fact, all four of my babies have a cute umbilical cord keepsake, shaped into a heart and then dehydrated, filed away with their baby things. Just ask your placenta encapsulator!
4. Use it in a tincture
A tincture is an alcohol-based holistic remedy. You put a piece of raw placenta in alcohol in a dropper bottle. Kind of like ingesting it, but for really squeamish people, because you can put a few drops in a cup of juice and be none the wiser. Plus, it lasts a LOT longer than freezing your placenta does. Same benefits as ingesting placenta, though the studies coming out are neutral at best on whether there actually ARE benefits, so that's something to keep in mind.
5. Lotus birth
Okay, this is one of those things I always wish I were brave enough to try. It seems so peaceful and beautiful, but I can't get over the "squeam" factor. The basic idea is, just like letting your baby come on their due date, you let the placenta separate when it and your baby are good and ready. That means no cutting the cord, no placenta encapsulation, smoothies, or truffles; instead, you have your baby and its twin the placenta attached from birth...until whenever the cord dries and falls off on its own. The placenta is patted dry and kept in a bowl wrapped in cloth with plenty of salt and herbs to prevent rot or any unfavorable smell. As odd as it sounds, no one that I've heard talk about it has ever regretted it. Usually it takes around 5 days for the cord to dry and separate. Until then, baby and cord are carried around together. Or, better still, left in bed with mom while they both heal. A postpartum doula could be REALLY handy for this beautiful tradition, so mom doesn't have to get out of bed as often and can just snuggle her cute baby...and its placenta.
People who practice this believe it's a more gentle transition for baby, and it enables mom and baby to be left alone and bond better (because grandma is less likely to want to hold that cute baby AND its placenta bowl...just saying).
So, try one of these fantastic ideas after the birth of your next (or first) baby, and let me know how it goes! You might just find a new postpartum tradition. Or, like me, you can keep it in the freezer for an undetermined amount of time, just to freak out the in-laws and other well-meaning people you bring you meals after your baby is born.
What have you done with your placenta?