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  • Writer's pictureHannah Burba, CPM


I love placentas. I think they are incredible. I even named my cat Placenta- I love them so much.

In Latin, the word Placenta means “cake” and when I first began midwifery school, I got a job encapsulating placentas for a local business, The Nurturing Root.

This job led to into homes all over the state- from the Eastern Shore to all around Baltimore City, horse farms, suburbs of DC, all over.

I loved it. I loved hearing the birth stories of the placentas and humans who were grown and birthed together, I loved meeting so many freshly postpartum families and I loved learning about these incredible organs.

Just like birth, there are similar things to each placenta, and yet each is very unique!

The placenta attaches to the uterus- and transports oxygenated blood and nutrients to the developing baby and removes waste after it passes through the baby and is no longer needed.

The placenta, in a full-term pregnancy, weighs 1-2 pounds. It is about the size of a very thick dinner plate and has two distinct sides.

The maternal side is what attaches into the uterine wall and is made up of lobes, or cotyledons, that shear off the uterine wall postpartum once they have received the message their job is done. One of our jobs in the postpartum period is to inspect the placenta to make sure all parts of the placenta have been delivered. Retained parts are absolutely no fun. They can lead to infection, hemorrhage and impair the body’s ability to make breastmilk.

The fetal side is arguably the “prettier side” of the placenta. This is the side that baby looks at and interacts with while gestating. This side of the placenta is surrounded by the amniotic sac, filled with fluid and a baby inside, and said baby gets its own unique finger prints from stroking the amniotic sac throughout its intrauterine journey. So cool.

This is the side of the placenta where the umbilical cord attaches into and we often call this the “tree of life” as dozens of branch-like veins split off from the insertion site of the cord and this often looks like a tree.

If you watch any other mammal give birth, one of the postpartum rituals across the animal kingdom is to eat the placenta. It is a wonderful source of iron, and other minerals and vitamins, probably similar to eating other organ meats. In the postpartum time, mothers are considered to be deficient, and many people find eating their placenta restores their energy.

I’ve even called it the perfect postnatal vitamin- as I believe the body can very easily digest and assimilate something that it grew more easily than a pill created in a lab or factory.

Midwives have known for centuries that giving a mother a small piece of her placenta during birth can stop a hemorrhage- something about the placenta’s presence signals to the body that it is time to contract the uterus and be done with the birthing process.

There have not been many large, randomized controlled trials that have measured the effects - positive or negative- of placenta encapsulation or ingestion. So, what we have to go on is each person’s decision based on how they are feeling and what they want to do.

Anecdotally, many people I have worked with have reported an increase in breastmilk production, and an increase in energy in their postpartum experiences after consuming their placentas- compared to postpartum experiences when they did not consume their placenta.

I have also heard women share with me that their placenta pills can make them feel “crazy” or “angry” and I know that it is not the most helpful choice for every person.

If someone has an infection during birth (like Group B Strep), consuming their placenta would not be recommended either.

Some people save their placenta pills for when their cycles return, and I have even had a grandmother share with me her daughter’s placenta pills were the only thing that helped her get through her hot flashes during menopause.

Throughout time and space, the placenta has been honored. Many people have kept their placentas with the baby for spiritual purposes, and considered the placenta to be a spiritual “twin” of the new baby. Many people have chosen to bury their placenta with a new tree or in the garden to give thanks and honor the new life that has come.

There is no one “right” way to use a placenta postpartum, but I do encourage everyone to at least look at the incredible organ they grew, and to consider a way to thank their bodies for growing and birthing their placentas.

If encapsulating is something you are interested in, please reach out! Included in my encapsulation services are: the placenta pills delivered to your home, an umbilical cord keepsake and the option to make placenta prints!

What did you do with your placenta!?


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