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).
Everyone always talks about the benefits of giving birth in the water, how wonderful it is. They rave about it, and women go to great lengths to have the perfect water birth. Of course, from the moment I heard about it, I wanted one too.
Personally, I have had the incredible experience of giving birth four times, all without medication of any kind. (You can read about my fourth birth experience HERE.)
My second birth was my first, and only, water birth at home. There were things I liked, and it was an all around good experience, but my third and fourth babies were born on land. Here are a few reasons why water birth wasn't for me:
1. Water isn't my "safe place"
I grew up in a desert. Here in Northern Utah it may not seem like a desert, but it is. The summer (and winter) air is dry. My first exposure to humidity was my first time in Oklahoma, where I got out of the car and promptly decided the people there must have gills to breathe. Despite having swim lessons and enjoying leisure time in the water at the city pool or water park, it's just not a place I feel comfortable or safe, which are two of THE most important components to giving birth. While I enjoyed the warmth the water provided, it didn't help me get into the right head space to give birth.
Local certified herbalist and student midwife, Bobbie, offers beautiful herbal teas, salves, tinctures, and more through her company, Herb & Owl.
Towards the beginning of my third trimester, I had the opportunity to receive some of Bobbie's "sweet child o'mine" prenatal tea blend. A tasty blend of red raspberry leaf, rose hips, nettle leaf, and lemon balm.
This tea is absolutely delightful! I love red raspberry leaf in pregnancy for its uterine toning properties. Rose hips and nettle provide nutritional support essential to growing a baby, and lemon balm is soothing and balancing for the nerves. I brewed up a batch, swirled in some honey, and basked in the yummy-smelling steam that swirled from my mug.
Tea is one of my self-care rituals. Especially when I'm having a down day, there's something so soothing about holding a hot cup filled with nutritious herbs that will support my body. In the United States, we don't turn to tea as often as I think we ought to. It's way better for you than sugary treats, just as comforting as fatty and unhealthy comfort food, and after you finish a cup there's an overwhelming sense of wellness that floods your entire being, body, mind and soul.
This delicious prenatal herbal blend by Herb & Owl is "spot-on" in my book! I drank it throughout my third trimester, even keeping some in the fridge to enjoy cold (which is the BEST way to drink it in the summer time). It's the perfect blend of great-tasting herbs, especially delightful with a spoonful of honey. All of the herbs are ideal for supporting your entire pregnant self, helping it prepare for delivery and grow a healthy baby.
Head over to Herb & Owl's website and grab yourself a bag of "sweet child o'mine" prenatal tea. You're going to love it!
Also, I'm giving away a bag of tea to two lucky pregnant mamas, along with your very own tea ball to brew it up with. There's only two steps to enter, it's easy and quick, and this bag of tea will likely keep you supplied for most of your pregnancy, depending on how often you drink tea.
There's a myth, or rather a mindset, being perpetuated heavily in our birth culture, that you have to "do" things to make labor happen. That it won't just happen on its own.
Women say things like, "I never went into labor on my own, so at 41 weeks I was induced."
"Baby's head wasn't engaged by 39 weeks, so doctor induced me."
"I have ZERO signs of labor! What can I do to make my body do what it's supposed to?" (said at 38 weeks).
The mindset is a belief that if we don't DO something, or if our bodies aren't matching the expectation and experience of ourselves, our doctors, our mother-in-laws or other family, or that one blog we read, then it's "broken", "not working", and "needs to be fixed".
Here's the truth.
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you're dilated to one centimeter at 41 weeks pregnant.
This happened with my firstborn. I was dilated to one centimeter until FOUR HOURS BEFORE HE WAS BORN. FOUR HOURS - that's how fast my body changed!
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you are dilated to a four or five towards full term and still aren't in labor.
A woman I know was dilated to a SIX with her third baby for SEVERAL WEEKS before labor started.
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you have contractions on again, off again, painful and regular, every day or every other day for a couple weeks with very little change in dilation or outward progression.
Often times this is called "prodromal labor" or "false labor". Baby's position, your body's alignment and readiness, the hormone receptors in your body, your stress levels, your nutrition, etc. can ALL play a part in the incredible dance of labor.
I get it. You're exhausted. You're excited. You've waited nearly nine months for this baby to come, and you are READY, dang it. As someone who has personally waited as long as 42 weeks + 3 days for one of her babies to choose her birthday, I GET IT.
But so does your midwife when they say WAIT. And often accompanied with that WAIT is the much-needed, rarely-honored advice to REST.
Why is it so important to rest? Why SHOULDN'T we bounce on the ball, drink castor oil, try that herbal remedy and this farmwives' tale, eat pineapple and spicy food until our tongues and tummies burn?
Well, mostly because all of those suggestions done together will exhaust your body and give you bad digestion or even diarrhea. So if you are successful in starting labor, you'll be so worn out you may not be able to run the final marathon!
This is one of the questions women commonly ask once they are introduced to postpartum belly binding. (Still aren't certain what belly binding is or why you would want to do it? Click here to learn more about belly binding.)
The basic answer is YES! You can learn to belly bind yourself postpartum.
Whether your budget doesn't have room to hire a professional belly binder or there aren't any in your area, you can definitely learn this incredible skill and receive the benefits of belly binding postpartum.
However, word of caution: belly binding is tricky to learn, though the technique is simple once you have it down. And since you'll be binding yourself in the first days and weeks postpartum, you'll be tired, bleeding, leaking milk, sleep-deprived, and prone to hormonal mood swings. This makes belly binding yourself difficult, but not impossible, and there are a few things that will make it all the easier.
Almost every doula brings a bag with her to every birth. But what's in that magical Mary-Poppins-like pouch? I can't speak for everyone, but I'll give you a glimpse of the most common items you'll find in mine - the items vary from time to time, but these essential things can always be found inside.
Why do you have that in your bag?
Some of these items might seem a bit strange, or maybe you don't know why a doula would want them at a birth, so here's a quick run-down:
"What can I do to prepare?"
"How can I feel less pain (emotional/physical) during labor?"
"What do I need to know?"
These questions, and others like them, are the most commonly asked questions by any woman as she finds out she is pregnant and prepares to bring a baby into the world. The questions a woman asks preparing for birth reveal her expectations - both positive and negative.
Most of the answers they receive, while wonderful and helpful suggestions, miss the mark. And because women most often don't focus on the root of the feelings or questions they have, these limiting beliefs remain, masked by the preparations, efforts, resources, and energy expended to making sure the birth goes smoothly, positively, trauma-free.
And so many times, these women are disappointed, even left with the lasting mark of birth trauma and injury. Even when the experience goes "text-book" perfect, baby is born healthy, vaginally, according to "plan", these women are left with the impression that something was still wrong with the experience. These feelings are compounded when something traumatic happens and the plan goes awry to some degree, either small or great.
Why does this happen? We reach, we prepare, we strive for the positive experience, and we are left afterward, still processing. Still wondering if we did something wrong. Or if there was something more we could have done. And if we decide to give birth again, we ask the same questions, and the process is repeated.
Not everyone feels like something went wrong after their experience. Many actually improve their impression of the experience and feel empowered, healed, and uplifted by taking the action they did to prepare during pregnancy. So why doesn't every woman feel this way after a birth experience they prepared extensively for?
The key, and what needs to be the first answer to every one of these questions, is this:
"What can I do to prepare?" Let go.
"How can I feel less pain (emotional/physical) in labor? Let go.
"What do I need to know?" Let go.
Let go of what, exactly?
Illusion of and desire for Control.
The home birth.
The unmedicated birth.
Avoiding a c-section.
Having a healthy baby.
Having your favorite doctor or midwife at the birth.
Getting a good nurse.
The perfect birth with no complications.
Starting labor on your own.
Everyone else's opinions, stories, and ideas.
Summed into one word: Expectation.
Letting go of expectation is scary. What does it mean, anyway? Does it mean you stop preparing for your VBAC, your unmedicated birth, your peaceful and positive birth, your ideal experience? Does it mean you DON'T listen to the suggestion of others and prepare for the experience you want to have? Does it mean you're not allowed to want a certain outcome?
I'm not saying this at all. What I am saying is, when you let go of expectation and step into a place of nuetrality, whatever happens at the birth can be experienced as positive, necessary, even joyful and celebrated.
How is that possible? How can one step into a "nuetral" place when it comes to something as emotional as birth? I have a method I would like to share with you today, a method that will allow you to explore and let go of expectation.
First, make two lists on a piece of paper in a quiet space. For the first list, ask yourself, what am I afraid of, or what am I avoiding? When you look at your birth plan, or your choice of birth location and care provider, what do they indicate about what you hope to achieve with your birth? Many women, no matter where they deliver or what they want for their birth, are working hard to avoid a c-section, an induction or episiotomy, a forceps or vaccuum delivery: in other words, intervention. For the second list, ask yourself what your ideal birth would be like, the one that you're preparing to have. If you're not able to have your ideal birth in "real life" due to health concerns and risks, still consider your ideal birth and write those things down on the second list. Most women want to feel happy, peaceful, calm. They want themselves and their babies to be healthy. They want to feel supported and safe. And they base every decision off of what they want to avoid, or what they want to experience. Include any items that are on your birth plan. Make these lists for each aspect of what you want and what you would rather avoid.
Second, ask yourself what would happen if the things on the "avoid" list each happened. Go one by one, addressing each item on the list, and then look at them as a whole - what if they ALL happened? Imagine each scenario in as much detail as possible, really visualize, imagine, go in depth. This is a good time to notice how you're feeling. What thoughts go through your mind? What do you feel? How would you handle it in the moment? What would your husband/partner do? What would your postpartum experience be like? Explore those feelings and allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as you do so. Write them down on a different sheet of paper.
Third, ask yourself what would happen if the things on your "ideal birth" list (or birth plan) DIDN'T happen. Do just as you did for the avoid list, imagining each scenario as it would happen without your ideals, your plan. Again, what thoughts go through your mind? What do you feel? How would you handle it in the moment? What would your husband/partner do? What would your postpartum experience be like? Explore those feelings and allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as you do so.
But WAIT A MINUTE, some of you are saying. If I visualize/focus on what I don't want, won't it come true?
NO. When you explore all of your feelings about a situation or circumstance in this way, you actually DISARM it. Your subconscious is incredible - it can't discern between the real and the imagined, what is true and false. Your conscious mind does that when you consciously recall or think about something. So when you think of something this way, your subconscious experiences it for real, and then IF, by chance, any of it actually happens in your birth, your mind (and body) won't respond with the extremes of emotion that would be there, because to your subconscious, you've already experienced this, and you lived, and you're able to relax more and feel clearer when making decisions in the moment.
When you AVOID thinking about these perceived "negative" things completely, that's when they are more likely to happen! Because when you aren't aware of your thoughts, or you're suppressing them, then you're actually putting more energy towards "not having a c-section," for example, or "not feeling pain in contractions." The key word here is "not" - your subconscious doesn't register this word, kind of like your kids when you tell them not to do something - most often they keep doing it, right? So if you're focused on what you don't want, even subconsciously, your mind is more likely to make decisions that would actually cause that to happen.
By opening up your subconscious and exploring the thoughts and the feelings there, you will begin to prepare for the experience in a different way - as it could happen. As it has potential to happen. You'll educate yourself on what might happen if it goes wrong, and your options in those scenarious. Your birth "plan" will expand to include, at least in your own mind, what you would want if you had to have a cesarean, or how you would handle a major emergency happening to you or your baby. And through this process, you will find peace. You will relax.
Remember after this experience to do the opposite! Visualize everything going right. Imagine how you will feel when you have that ideal experience. Go through the same steps, write out your positive feelings. You may want to do this in two or three sessions, depending on the time you have. For some women, it will take several hours.
Finally, adopt a new mantra for yourself: "I let go. Whatever happens will be the perfect experience for me. I make the perfect decisions for myself and my baby." Breathe deeply and know that it is true - whatever happens has a purpose. And if it's not what you expect, there is still good to be found in it, or because of it. This exercise will prepare you to trust your intuition. Having explored the darkest sides of yourself and letting go of expectation, you will strengthen your ability to make clear decisions in the moment.
You may find that you have to do this several times in your pregnancy as you make new decisions and learn new things about the experience of birth.
There are ways to increase the effectiveness of this exercise. Repetition of birth and pregnancy affirmations is one way, and a very common method employed by women today. As a doula I have my clients identify one word or short phrase that embodies how they want to feel during and after the birth experience, and they use that word as they visualize and prepare. This has always successfully helped them feel that way during and afterward, even when their birth goes other than the way they hoped. (Examples of words include peace, ease, love, joy, fun, excitement, etc.)
There are also ways of clearing out additional emotion and resolving limiting beliefs or fears in regards to birth. If you would like to know more, visit my page discussing the benefits of Bio-Energetic-Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.) and schedule an appointment at my office today!
Lastly, this exercise is only one of many methods you can use, and the recommendations made here are by no means comprehensive, and they may not apply to you. If you don't do this, will you still have a "good" birth experience? You can. Plenty of women do. If you DO do this, will it guarantee a good experience? No, I can't promise that. This is just one recommendation I can make for you to help yourself let go of expectation and give birth, and hopefully have a positive experience along the way.
Questions? Want to know more? Feel free to contact me!
The more you dig in the world of pregnancy and birth, the deeper you will get into theories and ideas around birth. Eventually you get beyond the articles about epidural pros and cons, dangers of pitocin, the magic of natural birth, the politics of midwives vs. doctors, etc.
Beyond these is an Alice-in-Wonderland type world where everything you know about birth is turned on its head and your beliefs are deeply challenged.
My initiation into doula work was brought on by my fall "into the rabbit hole. I have had three beautiful babies, and the preparation for each one took me deeper and deeper into unique cultures, concepts, and ceremonies for birth. Natural Childbirth. Placenta encapsulation. Lotus birth.
Pushing the boundaries of my beliefs has expanded my world-view, my trust in my own intuition as a mother, and my belief in the goodness of pregnancy and birth. So I've gathered a list here of "radical birth practices" that you can explore, and perhaps even apply to your own pregnancy or birth.
Each point is a link, so click on it to be directed to more information.
Birth - fetal ejection Reflex (not actively pushing) - Click here for VIDEO
Water-birth - Click here for list of VIDEOS
Raw Placenta Smoothie
Placenta Prevents Postpartum Hemorrhage
Lotus Birth - Click here for VIDEO
Check your own cervical dilation in labor
Pain-free, even orgasmic, birth
Unassisted or free birth
Birth outdoors, in a backyard or in the wild - VIDEO
Did I miss something? Add it in the comments below!
*These statements are not meant to be taken as medical advice. Be sure you do your own research and take responsibility for the decisions you make in your birth experience. Not all of the methods on this list are for every woman, and only you (and your care provider) can decide if your health permits exploring these "radical" options for giving birth.
Doulas have fees that can range anywhere from about $350 - $1,200, depending on location, training/experience, and cost of living in your area. That can be a stretch for some budgets, especially right before adding a baby (or two!) to the family. If you want a doula, and you find one you like and who feels right for you, the cost is actually a small hurdle to get over. Here are some ways you can choose to make this investment in yourself, your birth and your baby happen:
A note on doulas in training: there’s a wide-spread belief that a doula in training (meaning one who still needs to attend a few births to certify with a doula training organization) is the way to go because hey, they’re free, right?
Now days, most doulas in training do not offer their services for free. Some will offer them for a reduced cost or are more willing to trade. Realize this: the service they are providing is incredibly time consuming and valuable. If they value themselves, they will most likely ask for a fee, even a small one. And believe me, you want someone attending you in birth who is confident enough in their abilities to ask for compensation. This isn’t about entitlement, it’s about the value of a service being offered. Please respect that, and I promise, with the options mentioned above, you will be able to work with just about any doula to find an arrangement that works for you.
That said, there ARE doulas who will offer their services to low-income and in-need families for a reduced cost or free. If you are in a situation where you honestly can’t pay a doula anything, or could only afford a portion of her fee, then speak up! Talk to doulas in your area and be honest about your situation until you find one willing to support you in your desires. We are human people, we know that it can be hard sometimes, and we really want to help you. We’ll work to find something that benefits both of us, and everyone will be better for it.
Also realize that not everyone NEEDS a doula. If none of the above seems to be an option or paying for a doula doesn’t appeal to you, consider whether you really need one. If this is you, there is a lot you can still do to prepare, which is the topic of another blogpost I might write someday. But here are some tips: 1) Get a care provider (doctor or midwife) who supports YOU and the birth you desire to have. Don’t settle for anything less than someone who respects and listens to you. 2) Be sure your husband or boyfriend or anyone who will be in the room supporting you truly supports the kind of birth you’re planning to have and won’t change their minds in the middle of your birth. You deserve someone to support you fully! 3) Do your research, and DO take a childbirth education class! Learn everything you can about birth, and make sure your husband learns some ways he can support you and help you have the safe, positive birth experience you desire.