I’m a member of a few (okay, a lot) of pregnancy groups on Facebook, mostly because I’ve been pregnant so many times over the last decade and it accumulates. I remain in them because I love sharing what I’ve learned with others. Recently there was a post of a first-time mom who asked:
“What’s it like to birth the placenta? No one talks about what happens after birth!”
And, it’s true! Why don’t we talk about placenta more? Many moms spend months preparing for labor by studying breathing techniques and positions, but the placenta often gets over looked. Sure, it looks kinda gross and isn’t as exciting as birthing a beautiful (all be it, messy) baby, but the more you know about placentas the more in awe you will become of them. You see, not only do we grow a human (which is pretty amazing in itself!) we grow an entire new organ. This new organ kept our babies alive through pregnancy, providing vital nutrients and oxygen as well as a protection barrier for baby. That’s awesome! What man can say they did that? I highly suggest watching this cool video of a “placenta tour” to see just how incredible the placenta design is and how it serves the baby through pregnancy.
So, you’ve worked hard to deliver your new squishy baby and what happens next? The contractions stop once baby is out (Hallelujah! Relief!) while the oyxtocin love hormone is flooding within you and you fall in love with the new creation you’ve made laying on your chest, relishing in their first cries. After 15-30 minutes you will experience contractions once again as the uterus begins to shrink back down, which signals the placenta is detaching and ready to emerge. This is considered stage three of birth and completes the process once out.
But what’s it like, you ask? The contractions in my experience are much milder than delivering the baby. My theory is because there is less pressure everywhere down under– there isn’t a hard head pressing or boney shoulders in your pelvis. With a few gentle pushes that the body leads, you’ll feel a bulge down below and then plop– the placenta comes out. Unusually this process only takes a few minutes, which again, is much easier than childbirth itself. Truly nothing to be worried about! Your provider will then make sure that the placenta is completely intact and none of it remains in the uterus– which could cause problems.
Now, until I switched to midwifery care at a freestanding birth center I had never even seen a placenta or knew the parts– let alone my own! I was amazed to see it for the first time after my third birth. I cuddled my newborn as my midwife sat perched along my bed with a bowl as she looked over my baby’s previous home. I also had no idea what happens to the placenta after birth until she asked me with an excited smirk, “So, what are you going to do with your placenta?” To which I replied, “Uh…what is there to do? I thought it just gets thrown away?”
Which brings me to my next point of things to know about placentas: it can help you after birth, too! I highly suggest you look into your options about what to do with your placenta. It’s yours, after all, you have that right.
Throw It Away
The care provider discards it after birth for the mom. I would say this is what most mommas do, either because they simply don’t know the benefits of other routes or they decide it just isn’t for them. I was grossed out at first too when my midwife mentioned it, “Eat my placenta? No!” So, I get it.
Placenta pills are growing in popularity as mommas are experiencing the benefits and sharing about them. You can hire someone to do this for you, which is what I did, because let’s be honest– much as I want the benefits of a more emotional stable postpartum mood, more milk, and more energy–I don’t want to touch my own placenta. If you or your partner aren’t squeamish, it’s easy to do yourself to save money!
Use It in a Tincture
Another option of gaining the placenta benefits– even past postpartum to help with PMS, menopause since it is good forever– is a tincture. This is basically is a chunk of placenta soaked in a high proof alcohol and when strained after six weeks, you are left with the amazing hormones steeped inside. You can do it on your own very easily. The down side is that you don’t have this for immediate use in postpartum when you likely need it for those ever-fluctuating initial weeks where the blues are common. I actually do both this and encapsulate the rest so that I get both forms.
Some women don’t want to consume their placenta, but also don’t want to toss it aside like a piece of gone-bad meat in the trash. For some, they would rather honor it and the life it has grown so they plant it in the earth to nourish the soil and often plant a tree over it.
Whatever you decide to do with your placenta after birth– I hope you take a minute to appreciate all it has done to grow the precious new life in your arms. You don’t even have to look at it to do that!