Placenta: The Gift of Life

Okay, so my first client wanted to keep her placenta and do something with it … she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it, she just knew that you could do something with it … so, I went to work doing the research and learned of the many, many benefits that the placenta has to offer.

I had heard of people burying the afterbirth and planting a tree over it before … but, I had no idea what kind of information I was about to embark upon.  And, let me tell you, it was NOT easy to come by, either.  Thankfully, due to my CAPPA Discussion Group and previous conversations there that I had saved, I had a place to start … but, that pretty much sums it up … a place to start.  I began by looking for a provider in our area that performs placenta services … there aren’t any … or, at least, they don’t advertise themselves very well … but, there is now … ME!  I told my client to ask the midwives at the Birth & Women’s Health Center to see if they knew of anybody.  A few weeks later (days before my client gave birth), they called her back and said that they knew of one person in the area, but that we could also buy a kit online and do it ourselves.  Well, we started searching online for this ‘kit’ … it was ‘out of stock’ … most likely forever … but, that’s a whole ‘nother story!  We got lucky and found one source from which we were able to get the information we needed to do this ourselves and from that one source, I learned of a book called Placenta:  The Gift of Life written by Cornelia Enning and edited by Cheryl K. Smith.  Seriously, there are no other books promoting information about the placenta … hmmmm, maybe I should write a book!  The only place I could find to order this book was from Midwifery Today … so, I did … and, I am sure glad that I did!  I just finished reading it (I started it yesterday) and let me tell you … if we could bottle placenta up and sell it, we’d all be rich … really rich … and, most likely, very, very healthy!

Did You Know …

–  The meaning of the old Middle High German word “placenta” is “mother’s bread.”  In medieval times this word depicted the prenatal processing and nurturing as well as the cooking or baking of the placenta in the oven after birth.
–  In the south part of Germany a few pharmaceutical manufacturers have produced placenta remedies since 1925.  The market continues to grow, as long as the products are listed as containing not placenta but polypeptides.
–  Films have been taken with microlenses of fetuses climbing up the cord to the disk of placenta tissue.  There they have groped at the hilly, smooth surface and some have even licked it like an ice cream cone (both of my girls were caught licking their umbilical cords in utero).  Frightened by noises, the fetus takes flight into the soft tissues between the vessel branches of the placenta.  The head and ears are safe from the outside world (so sometimes babies turn into breech position when startled).  This makes me wonder if all the NSTs I had during my second pregnancy and that damn buzzer they used to try and wake my daughter up with is why she was usually transverse or breech after those appointments?  Hmmm.
–  After the birth of the baby the placenta continues to function for a short while.  The blood may take up to two hours to stop flowing through the umbilical cord, which will then collapse.
–  In 18th century Germany and France the newborn was to be handsome, smart and well-behaved in life if the placenta was buried close to the living quarters immediately after birth.  Because throwing away the placenta was believed to lead to infertility in the mother, it was sometimes used as an attempt at birth control.  Maybe this is why kids aren’t as well-behaved as they used to be?  Or, maybe this is how we started just throwing them out as medical waste?
–  In some modern industrialized countries such as Germany, parents are familiar with the custom of retaining their child’s placenta by having homeopathic pills made from a small piece of the placenta.  Thus the placental powers the child had thrived on before the birth can still be used to strengthen him during childhood diseases or in dangerous situations.
–  Like other mammals, humans have to detach the umbilical cord and protect the newborn from animals of prey.  In a hostile environment that does not allow for longer periods of rest in one place, such as the prairie or the desert, the well-being of mother and child depends on a speedy recovery from birth.  Consumption of the placenta can reduce the recovery period to a couple of days.  Mothers in those regions of the world must be back in shape quickly to continue migrating with their tribe.  In our present time and with our current lifestyles, a woman will also regain her strength very quickly if she eats the placenta soon after the birth.
–  In the 16th century a piece of the placenta was added to the mother’s first postpartum meal in southern Germany.  (I have this recipe if you would like it.)  The custom of offering a woman chicken broth with a piece of the placenta for her first meal after giving birth is still alive in many European regions. 
–  A drink of white wine in which a piece of placenta had been preserved was believed to speed up the delivery of the afterbirth and control bleeding.  If, following the prior birthing of a midwife’s client, she had not prepared a concoction of wine and placenta, a drink was instead made of ground, baked placenta tissue dissolved in water.  According to inventory lists “a jar of this powder” was kept in stock at all town pharmacies until the end of the 19th century.  Not until the turn of the 20th century did use of the placenta powder gradually diminish.
–  According to midwives from Poland, Turkey, Portugal and Spain, the placenta should be dried and pulverized and the powder applied both internally and externally.  Even farther east – in Vietnam, Korea and Thailand – placenta hormones have always been used in folk medicine for the treatment of badly healing wounds, as well as for blood circulation disorders.
–  Throughout the world generations have passed down knowledge of how ingesting placenta helps a mother’s postpartum recovery.  Women using placenta remedies after birth feel stronger, are happier and can breastfeed more easily.  If edema, elevated blood pressure or traces of protein in the urine signal malfunction of the kidneys during pregnancy, placenta remedies can eliminate these symptoms quickly.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses placenta to strengthen the kidneys.  Many conditions during birth, the postpartum period and nursing would not arise if we returned to the old custom of applying placenta remedies.
–  The baby also may suffer consequences if a mother doesn’t ingest her placenta.  The newborn receives important hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin with the mother’s milk.  Up until birth, the baby lives happily inside the uterus until the process of birth causes separation anxiety.  If Mom eats part of the placenta, some of it may make it back to the baby and somehow contribute to a reunion.  If the placenta is simply thrown in the trash, as commonly occurs, the baby will be deprived of this.  Oh, the things I wish I would have known …
–  Human milk has a tempting sweetness – that is, if the hormone level is correct.  A mature placenta contains a high level of oxytocin (often called the love hormone).  Women whose milk lacks oxytocin because of toxemia, gallbladder disease or a stressful birth, can make up for it by using a placenta remedy.
–  Placenta has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 1400 years.  It is believed to be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions, including infertility, immune system strengthening, asthma, liver problems, arthritis, and many more.
–  In Japan placentas are tested for hepatitis and sterilized.  The resulting remedy is used for treatment of cerebral thrombosis and heart attack, as well as to build the immune system.
–  In Cuba the products are now used to treat not only vitiligo (a condition that causes the skin to lose pigment), but alopecia and psoriasis.
–  A Russian physician developed a treatment for cancer using injected placental tissues.  His research showed that they suppressed lymphocytes from maternal tissues.  The treatment resulting from this research, immunoembryotherapy, has been used in Mexico, Bahamas, and San Diego.  In Germany, doctors are also using placenta injections for treatment of cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.
–  In Mexico, a mom will cut up bite-sized pieces of her recently birthed placenta and simply swallow the chunks, one or two a day, to ensure good milk supply and strength.  Another use is placenta tincture in drops for six weeks to prevent post-operative depression as well as help with the hormonal changes after a hysterectomy.  The tincture is also given to women with menopausal problems.  Ten drops of the tincture directly on the tongue one to three times a day helps prevent hot flashes, mood swings, palpitations, etc.
–  The cocktail of substances in placenta remedies is believed to stimulate hair follicles.  These substances have been used to treat hair loss and seborrhea.  Amazing results have been achieved for alopecia areata (circular hair loss).
–  In Mexico, midwives use the placenta in some form in facial beauty creams.
–  Japanese cosmetic surgeons offer not only surgical treatments but placenta extract shots to treat wrinkles.
–  The ability to inexpensively and simply obtain a placenta makes it even more appealing.  Using placenta membranes to cover burns is by far less expensive than any other method used by public hospitals.  The quick availability, the small effort involved in gaining access to it and applying it, the simple waste management when taking care of the wound, as well as the incredible results in the healing process of the burn are the great advantages of using the placenta membranes for a natural and biological dressing.
–  The use of commercial medicine may be unnecessary for many different treatments.  Despite pollution and the threat of a water shortage, placenta medications are available as a pure remedy, as long as babies are being born.  In addition, they combine well with other medication and treatments, sometimes increasing their effectiveness.
–  According to TCM, placenta is considered a powerful and sacred medicine, full of life force.  Raven Lang, a midwife who has studied TCM, advises women to use placenta during the postpartum period to aid in recovery from childbirth, prevent postpartum depression and minimize bleeding.
–  Taking the placenta as a powder, particularly in the first nine months after giving birth, is an old custom.  It helps the uterus return to its original shape and size and speeds up the mother’s recovery as well.  It prevents depression, which can occur even after several months as a result of fluctuating hormones.  The powder is particularly useful for enhancing milk supply.  Within 20 minutes of taking a pinch of placenta powder, a breastfeeding mother with feel her milk coming in.
–  Lactation consultants and midwives frequently see moms with sore nipples due to the baby’s inability to nurse efficiently.  The underlying cause may be a weak let-down-reflex.  Mothers can take the placenta remedy to help them “let go of their milk.”
–  When a fever or childbirth injury needs treatment a combination of raw placenta and enzymes can be useful.  Treatment with a combination of placenta and enzymes after a birth involving premature rupture of the membranes or stained amniotic fluid may prevent an infection.  The placenta, as well as the enzymes, helps to produce more milk with no side effects for mother or baby.
–  The baby’s ability to tolerate stress may be affected by the mother’s hormones at birth.  Fear, stress and danger may lead to cramping of the intestinal muscles and to diarrhea.  The tummy of a colicky baby may be in a state of alarm because of the stress experienced by the mother before, during or after the birth.
–  After menopause a woman’s risk of having a heart attack rises dramatically.  The drop in estrogren can lead to increased blood pressure, weight gain and diminished stress tolerance, likely caused by inadequate adaptation to stress.  Placenta products can be used as a souce of protective hormones for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, or after heart surgery.  Placenta remedies could even have a preventive function in national health, considering the large number of people suffering from strokes and their aftereffects.  A stroke may be treated with a remedy such as placenta cream, placenta extract or placenta powder.  Even the precursors of a stroke may be influenced by placenta remedies; lack of concentration and motivation, depression and loss of appetite all respond well to placenta remedies.  The extract of the placenta also prevents the clotting of blood platelets.  These combined effects on the dilation of the vessels and viscosity of the blood may help avoid infarct and stroke.
–  Some women may experience psychiatric symptoms such as confusion, depression, paranoid psychosis and a failing short-term memory after menopause.  Many are treated with psychotropic drugs or even hospitalized because hormone treatment was not sufficient.  Placenta therapy can be an alternative for these patients, also avoiding the problem of dependency on certain drugs.  Many women are particularly comfortable with the idea of using the placenta of one of their grandchildren.  Experience has shown that symptoms of aging such as wrinkles, loss of hair or the phenomenon of “dry eye” are the first to disappear.
–  Placenta therapy reliably reduces the loss of hair and simulataneously makes the scalp healthier and tighter.  The hair growth will resume only a few days later.
–  Placenta remedies are particularly effective on skin problems.  One active substance in the placenta is the hormone progesterone.  It inhibits the breakdown of collagen in the skin.  As we age, our natural collagen breaks down, leading to wrinkles.  This process can be stopped with placenta ointments or by taking placenta remedies orally.  The progesterone will stimulate the protein synthesis of the hormones, including relaxin.  The hormone relaxin reestablishes the strength of the collagen in skin, bones and ligaments.
–  Placenta ointment is a particularly effective vehicle for treating skin diseases.  Within only a few minutes of application the placenta ointment will diminish the symptoms of inflammatory skin diseases as well as non-specific itching.  A newborn’s diaper rash will respond just as quickly as an elderly person’s itchy skin.  The ointment can also be used for gestational pruritus (an insatiable itch during pregnancy, most commonly related to liver problems.)  Patients with atopic dermatitis believe these ointments work faster if they add the extract or powder from their own placenta.  The fresh placenta can be used as a healing compress for a family member with atopic dermatitis.
–  The most well-known recipe is postpartum soup, made from a small piece of the placenta and chicken or beef soup.  The stock is mostly used injections and tinctures.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cooking is an integral part of the formation and action of the medicine.  Steaming at a low temperature is meant to enrich the placenta with energy.
–  Even today in some countries women customarily eat parts of the raw placenta (placentophagia) within hours of giving birth.  The tissue of the placenta is said to be so nutritious that they have little appetite for other food.  This custom is said to aid in the involution of the uterus to normal size and to establish the milk supply more quickly.  Two other effects of placentophagia are “accelerated onset of maternal behavior” and enhancement of pain relief.

~ by cmb0414 on June 24, 2010.

3 Responses to “Placenta: The Gift of Life”

  1. I make hundreds of biodegradable containers for placenta / whenua here in New Zealand

  2. Misty – That is the most practical way. :)

  3. wow, very interesting, i think i could only injest it in pill form though,lol.

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