Your Amazing Placenta! Why Is It So Remarkable and What Are Your Options?

June 20, 2017

    Today, a lot of expecting Mom's have a tornado of conflicting information coming at them.  It can be confusing and frustrating to field through the options, not sure what to believe. With the industrialization of childbirth in the 20th century, labor and delivery went from being a gentle, natural, intuitive journey to a rushed, sterile set of interventions and protocols. Most of us grew up trusting in Western Medicine, our mothers and theirs before them taught to believe that doctors and hospitals were our best and only option for safe child birth.  More recently however, we have started to awaken...to realize that somewhere down the line the medical industry tried fixing something that was never broken to begin with.  From the beginning of time childbirth has been, and always will be, the most natural part of humanity.  This new generation of mom's are learning more about the benefits of a gentle, patient, intuitive approach to pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum care.  

  

    These days, a lot of awareness is placed on the importance of creating a 'Birth Plan', being mindful about what you envision for your birth, what you Do and Don't want during Labor/Delivery. You  plan ahead for childbirth by taking classes and/or reading books.  But even today, with our awareness and desire to take childbirth back to its roots, the Placenta remains widely forgotten or misunderstood.  The "third stage of labor", the birth of your placenta, is rarely thought about in much detail ahead of time.  What to do with the umbilical cord and placenta after birth is rarely considered ahead of time. Even today, these often remain an afterthought.  Yet, the placenta is subconsciously and strongly rooted in our psyche.

 

    Our creation stories tell of the Earth Mother birthing the World...her amniotic fluid became the oceans and the placenta became the Tree Of Life.  Just as the roots of a tree draw in moisture and nutrients from the Earth Mother and deliver life-sustaining water into the environment, while at the same time converting carbon dioxide into life-sustaining oxygen; the placenta draws in nutrients,moisture, and oxygen from the Mother and delivers life-sustaining elements to the baby. The placenta is each person's 'Tree Of Life'.  

 

 

    The placenta is the powerhouse that ensures the safety and survival of mother and baby while in the womb and after birth. It provides all essential nutritional needs, aids in development, acts as a barrier against harmful bacteria, prepares the mother's body for lactation and delivery, and regulates hormones essential to pregnancy and labor.  The placenta is the commander-in-chief of the baby's immune system during development.

 

    The Placenta has been deep-rooted in spiritual and religious traditions and beliefs throughout all of history...all over the world...in all different cultures.  Bali tradition believes that the placenta, or Ari-ari, is the physical body of the baby's guardian angel.  Although the physical body of the angel dies shortly after birth, the angel's spirit stays with the child it's entire life.  However, in tradition it was forbidden to sever the umbilical cord before the placenta was safely delivered, as it was believed that it would cause death of the placenta and a series of unfortunate events.

 

    Sadly, the hospitals where most of you were birthed, and where some of you have given birth yourselves, treat your placenta as unimportant medical waste.  It is whisked away after immediate cord cutting and incinerated.  Such an unnecessary intervention and such an incredible waste.  

 

    As parents-to-be, you have the once in a lifetime opportunity to plan for how your baby will separate from his/her placenta.  How to honor the "sacred trinity"; the baby, cord, and placenta.  Every expectant mom should create a "Placenta Plan"...just like a "Birth Plan", but being mindful about 1) The Delivery of the Placenta, 2) The Umbilical Cord, 3) and The Placenta After Detachment. This plan should then be talked about in detail and agreed upon with your Midwife or Doctor ahead of time.

 

Delivery of the Placenta

Most standard hospital births treat the "third stage of labor" as a rushed, impersonal procedure.  Sometimes medications are given to aid in or speed up the delivery of the placenta. Unnecessary interventions and practices  are common in hospitals if you don't advocate for yourself.  

Just as a gentle birth is important for the health of your baby, a gentle birth for your placenta is also necessary. The safest and most effective, natural way to deliver the placenta is to begin breastfeeding immediately after delivery and be patient.  Breastfeeding releases an important hormone called Oxytocin which helps contract your uterus and release the placenta for gentle and safe delivery.  

 

The Umbilical Cord

    -Lotus Birth

    -Delayed Cord Clamping

    -Burning the Umbilical Cord

    -Full Lotus Birth

There is evidence that shows the placenta behaves as a living organism for up to 5hrs following birth!  During this time, it is able to continue assisting the baby, as it did in the womb.  Why then, are doctors so eager to cut the umbilical cord immediately after the baby is delivered? Our baby's immune systems are denied a fighting chance from the beginning by the immediate cutting of the cord.  Studies show that delayed cord cutting  allows more blood volume to transfer to the baby, increases the infant's iron stores, and benefits their immune functions for life.  There are no studies that advocate the benefits of immediate cord clamping.  It is an unnecessary medical intervention, that can be compared to an episiotomy or circumcision.  

Advocate for your baby's health and insist that the clamping of the cord be delayed.  

 

    Waiting to severe the cord until your baby has breastfed and you have birthed your placenta is ideal.  By then the baby has received most of the benefits.  This is considered a Lotus Birth, when the placenta, umbilical cord, and baby are born and left naturally intact.  If circumstances don't allow for the luxury of time try to insist on waiting at least 15 min before clamping/cutting the cord.  Even this Delayed Cord Clamping can provide the baby many benefits.

When it comes time to separate the bond between your baby and it's placenta there is a safe and gentle alternative to the clamping and cutting of the cord.  Burning the Umbilical Cord was traditionally practiced in Old China and believed to help the Qi (Chi - "Life Force"), dormant in the placenta, move into the baby. Chinese Medicine also believed that including the element of fire was important, as warmth promotes blood circulation.  This method of cord separation requires no clamping, tying, cutting, or use of medical tools/supplies or medicines.  It is completely natural and gentle.  Candles are used to slowly burn, and cauterize/sterilize, the umbilical cord until complete separation occurs after 10-15 min.

 

 

  The most raw and spiritual way to honor the 'sacred trinity', the bond between baby, cord, and placenta, is through a Full Lotus Birth.  This is the most patient and peaceful way to separate baby from it's 'Tree Of Life'.   A full lotus birth keeps the baby attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord until it naturally dries up and releases in 3-9 days.  In our modern, Western-dominated, busy culture this method is rarely employed due to its perceived inconvenience and "ick" factor.  However, if done properly there is little mess and little to no odor.  It is important that for the first several days after giving birth, you focus on bonding and breastfeeding, limit activity/visitors/excessive stimuli, and rest your body so that you can heal. A full lotus birth inspires exactly this!  The baby remaining intact encourages the mother and father to move slower with the baby, being mindful of the cord, and promotes bonding and breastfeeding. Waiting a long time before the umbilical cord is severed allows for the largest amount of nutrients and essential blood to enter the baby's body.

 

   The Placenta After Detachment

    -Spiritual/Religious Traditions

    -Placentophagia

    -Placenta Encapsulation & Placenta Tincture

Once you have decided when and how you are going to separate your baby from it's placenta it's time to think about how you would like to use it!  Many cultures throughout history have had Spiritual or Religious Traditions involving burying the placenta.  A Placenta Print to honor and remember your child's 'Tree Of Life' can be a very special tradition.

 

   Most mammals...carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores...will instinctually ingest their placenta.  By doing so the new mother is able to replenish minerals, vitamins, and proteins lost during pregnancy and childbirth, and balance hormone levels.  Free of the cultural hang-ups and judgments, eating placenta is a natural craving for mammals.  

Studies and history have shown that incredibly, ingesting a small piece of placenta, immediately after delivery can stop postpartum hemorrhage and subsequent death due to blood loss.  Pharmaceutical medications have their place when absolutely needed, but they come with side effects.  Your placenta is 100% you! Which means no side effects, ever.  

 

   Placentophagia is the practice of ingesting your placenta.  It is the only meat we can get by giving life instead of taking it.  In some cultures, the family will cook a postpartum meal for the mother using her placenta. Benefits of ingesting your placenta include:

 

-reduction of postpartum hemorrhage

-replenish lost nutrients and iron

-immunological advantages

-support lactation

-aid in pain relief

-prevent postpartum depression

 

   Ingesting your placenta raw and immediately after birth offer immense and immediate benefits.  If you need to control heavy postpartum bleeding or hemorrhage, holding a small piece of raw placenta between your gum and cheek for a time and then swallowing it with water will help.  You can also drink fruit/veggie smoothies using pieces of raw placenta to promote healing, milk supply, and energy.  

 

   

   Placenta Encapsulation has become increasingly popular, although many are still unaware of this safe and effective method of using placenta as medicine.  Encapsulation allows the mother to enjoy the benefits of her placenta for longer than just the first couple of days.  The placenta is dehydrated, powdered, and put into capsules that are taken by the mother daily as needed.  Easy, effective, and no "ick" factor.  A Placenta Tincture offers the same benefits, although somewhat diluted, as the capsules but can last forever if stored properly.  Since placenta ingestion has been shown to help balance hormones during PMS and menopause, and can effectively be used by your biological daughters, it is important to have this other option on hand just in case it is ever needed.  A tincture is quick and simple and only requires a small piece of raw placenta to be harvested.

 

   You can still safely ingest and/or encapsulate your placenta if you choose a lotus birth, even a full lotus birth.  A qualified Placenta Specialist will be able to help you with a Lotus Birth, Burning of the Umbilical Cord, a Full Lotus Birth, or Ingestion/Encapsulation Services if you so choose.  

 

Sources:

Placenta: the Forgotten Chakra

    -by Robin Lim

 

About the Author:

 
Lauren Taylor is a full-time Mom to 3 boys and has been  providing Placenta Services to other Moms for 4 years.  After experiencing, first-hand, the amazing benefits Placenta Encapsulation can provide she became passionate about spreading awareness and understanding about this sometimes misunderstood practice.  Lauren trained through International Placenta & Postpartum Association  (IPPA), became a Certified Specialist, and has been proudly helping Moms like you ever since!
She is also trained in traditional Bengkung Belly Binding, a healing and comforting Malaysian tradition in which newly postpartum women are gently, but tightly, bound with a long cloth strip. This technique offers physical support and promotes healing and recovery from within. Various cultures all around the world use some form of belly binding to help support postpartum women.  
Lauren Taylor serves all of Whidbey Island as well as some nearby areas off-island.  To find out more visit her website at  www.treeoflife-placenta.com
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