In mammals, shortly following the fertilization and implantation of an egg into the lining of the uterus, an organ called the placenta begins to form. The placenta is self regulating organ that is formed and only necessary during the gestational period. In a healthy pregnancy the placenta stays connected to the uterine wall and is responsible for passing nutrients to the fetus as well as waste elimination through the mothers bloodstream.
The placenta is literally a baby’s connection to his mother, without it the fetus would be unable to grow or thrive. Placental abruption is when the placenta abnormally separates from the mothers uterus and is the most common cause of bleeding in late pregnancy. Occurring in 1% of pregnancies worldwide placental abruption is a large contributing factor in maternal mortality and carries a 20-40% fetal mortality rate.
Inside hospitals, where most babies are born in the Western world, the placenta, also known as the afterbirth is regarded as hazardous waste and incinerated. However for centuries, cultures all over the globe have used it to celebrate life with ritualistic ceremonies of all kinds. Many countries customarily bury it with a tree, symbolizing it’s life giving properties. Some cultures believe that the future health of mother or baby can be affected depending on the “proper” disposal of the afterbirth.
Some women have chosen to consume their own placenta either raw or dried. Recipes can even be found online for placenta smoothies! The benefits of consuming one’s own placenta (Placentophagy) are widely speculated. Similarly, in the natural world many animal mothers instinctively eat their own placenta after giving birth. For more great information on the healing properties of the afterbirth visit The Placenta Lady here and on twitter.
Also gaining popularity among natural birth advocates is leaving the baby and the placenta attached by the umbilical cord until it detaches naturally. Known as a lotus birth, benefits touted are similar to that of delayed cord clamping/cutting and include; increased blood volume to the baby, higher levels of red blood cells, higher oxygen levels, lower incidence of anemia.
All of this and the placenta, having nourished your baby since his earliest beginnings, with the potential to heal on a physical, emotional and spiritual level is so often disregarded and disposed of as though it were toxic waste. No matter what you choose to do with your placenta, no harm can come from opening our minds and choosing to adopt an attitude of gratitude instead of one of disgust.