Western Perception of the Placenta, Lost and Remembered
''The placenta, a piece of waste after birth, an organ that filters blood and nourishes our babies, it has no value, people in our society feel it is gross, it is horrible to look at ... and to consider eating it?… well that’s even worse … ! ''
That is how many of us view it, and this was me too 20 and 15 years ago when I had my eldest two babies. It seems a common school of thought society on the whole has created over the past few hundred years.
We are so far removed from nature and sentience in so many ways...and being so far removed from birth and our natural instinct towards how we manage our placentas is possibly due to our lack of education and our lack of exposure to birth as children. I can feel myself opening a whole can of worms within my thoughts and feelings on this subject. So I will reel this back in....
However, all that said, our instinct towards what to do with our placentas is returning to our lands bit by bit.
In the two years I have been a doula, I have met so many women who are in tune with their bodies and nature, we are slowly waking up and realising that things are missing from our culture and for many of us it takes pregnancy and birth to see this.
Our connection to our pregnancies, births, and the role of placentas has been lost along with many spiritual practices, and indigenous traditions due to our busy modern lives and the way culture has changed over the centuries.
It makes me wonder of the impact this all really has on our children.
Many societies throughout history believe the placenta is not only a physical source of nutrients but houses part of the babies spirit too.
Some call it the forgotten chakra, written in Robin Lim's book. Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra, and I can well believe why.
The placenta is the organ that grows with the fetus within the uterus. It begins to function from 12 weeks gestation, once it has fully developed. It takes over hormone production, which control most of the changes within the pregnancy. It also provides the nutrients for the baby, and also separates the baby's blood from maternal blood. It is a truly remarkable organ in all that it does! At birth the placenta emerges after the baby is born, in what is called the third stage of labour.
To honour our placenta really is a special thing, it is a tradition so lost in our culture and it saddens me when I see so many thrown away in the sluice after birth. I know this is a woman's choice and I respect that choice. However many people are now seeing how much value and meaning the placenta holds and there are many around the world who still honour placenta traditions.
Many of our indigenous societies living around the world believe the placenta to be a part of the baby and linked by spirit, bury it to protect the child’s soul through life. It is often buried in native soil near to home or under a tree so the child will always have a sense of home and know how to get back by feeling their link.
Many placentas are buried with objects to ensure the baby will have specific skills and wishes their parents want for them to have all they need as they grow up. Or in more recent traditions since birth in hospital began and placentas are discarded of, in Turkey for example, some people will cut the umbilical cord and throw it to a school for the child to have knowledge, or to the sea to be safe at sea, or a work place to be a good business person. You get the intention of this tradition.
In more recent years still within England, fisherman would buy the amniotic membranes, with belief it would keep them safe at sea, especially if the baby was born en caul (born with membranes still intact).
My friend Kate decided to honour her baby's placenta after birth, with a placenta burial, which you can see in the photographs below, Kate was so in tune with her pregnancy and baby, to her it felt wrong having the placenta thrown away. Kate did this not even knowing other people have strong beliefs and have been honouring their placentas around the world since time began, which confirms to me the spiritual importance of honouring such a special organ that has so many facets to its amazingness.
The inspiration for this blog is through seeing Kate's and her son Oakley's journey last year, and having had the honour of being asked to be a part of their placenta ceremony by helping to create the ceremony and hold the space for the ceremony.
Burial is also only one aspect of honouring our baby's placenta as many people are now seeing value in eating their placenta after birth for the hormone balancing and extra nutrients its provides too. It is becoming common for remedies to be made from the placenta. Where it is dried and put into capsules. Tinctures and homeopathic remedies are also made from it too. Often fresh fruit smoothies are made at birth using a piece of the placenta too.
One more way some people honour their placenta after birth is by choosing a Lotus Birth, whereby the cord is not cut, and remains attached to the baby. Parents dry the placenta using salt and herbs. Many people believe the baby's transition to adjusting to our environment from the womb is easier, because if, as Robin Lim says in her book, our placentas are so linked to us genetically and spiritually, it could be a shock to cut it as abruptly as we do following birth.
This blog has only touched on the subject as the placenta traditions is an entire book or series of books once you begin researching and writing everything down.
Before you finish reading, I just want to suggest these thoughts.
As humans we have perhaps not evolved as a species for a long time, although our ways of living have. Our modern society does not seem to fit our biology, spiritually or physically, in a lot of ways creating poor health in so many of us which may be different if society could change. Becoming a conscious parent and raising our children more intuitively could be a start to improving society.
Starting at birth and being intuitive in the decisions we make for our babies.
The placenta is one of those decisions.
If the placenta is said to be all these amazing things I have just written about, that can help you and your baby spiritually and physically if you consciously make a decision to use it or honour it, even if it is a waste product of birth, no harm can be done in trying to make a conscious choice and bringing back old birth traditions. I also want to add I do not judge people who choose not to use their placenta, we can bring back many other traditions and choose to be conscious parents in other ways.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it inspires.
References: and for further reading…
Book: The Forgotten Chakra. By Robin Lim.
There are also many well researched blogs and articles on the subject if you want to find out more!