5 Things You Didn't Know About The Placenta

by Kaitlyn Wylde
pregnant woman
sarote pruksachat/Moment/Getty Images

As a young woman who has never given birth or even seen a placenta, I admit it's strange that I'm so fascinated with them. And fascinated I am — I literally love to read about them and hear personal stories from women who have eaten their own placentas after childbirth. Maybe it's because I spent a few years living in LA that I'm easily fascinated and rarely spooked by natural practices. But to me, the idea of a woman eating a temporary life sack that her body grew for her baby is not scary or gruesome. It's freaking awesome and powerful and animalistic in the best possible way. And if I'm being totally honest, I look forward to having an opportunity to eat my own placenta one day. I also know how much that very sentence is going to irk people who aren't all aboard on the placenta dinner train.

It's not the gory excitement of pseudo-canabalism that interests me, but the naturalness of the practice, known as placentophagia. It's the fact that so many mammals do this in wild, instinctively. It's that during the rest of our lives, we seek nutrients outwardly. We take supplements and pills to make up for deficiencies. But eating a placenta is a strangely inward way of seeking balance. It's self-sufficient. And even if there's no hard evidence that it's the right thing for human mammals, the amount of encouraging stories from women who have tried it give me reason enough to consider it for myself one day. To each her own; consuming disposable body parts is not everyone's cup of tea. Women have been balancing out and getting back to health without eating their insides for thousands of years. But if you are curious the parts of childbirth no one likes to talk about like me, you might find these five facts about placentas in general, pretty flipping interesting:

It's The Only Disposable Organ

The placenta is the only organ that the body grows to get rid of. It makes no long-term attachments, it's like a one pregnancy stand. Once it's helped the mother to support her baby, the body no longer needs it and excretes it five to 20 minutes after childbirth in a process called afterbirth. It will live for a few minutes after it's been excreted from the body, continuing to provide nutrients to the baby, but once the cord is cut, it will cease functionality and become medical waste. Or, at that point it would be prepared for consumption. Options for placentophagia include raw, dehydrated, capsule form or chilled smoothies.

It Grows As Your Baby Grows

The placenta grows with your baby — so no two placentas are identical. By the time your baby is actually born, your placenta will have reached a width of eight to nine inches, with an inch thick in the middle and weigh up to three pounds. Basically, it's huge. Which is why the afterbirth process is considered a pretty intense process.

It Has Like A Million Functions

The placenta functions as many different organs in one. It serves as the baby’s lungs by providing oxygen from the mom, as the baby's kidneys by filtering out waste product. It also serves as a gastrointestinal and immune system by bringing the baby nutrients and antibodies. It's not just a sack; it's like a motherboard in the control room.

It Secretes Hormones

At the end of a pregnancy, the placenta will release its built-in lactation hormones that send the "get the milk ready" messages to the rest of the body. Without that communication, the body wouldn't know when or how much to prepare. It sort of acts like a server in a restaurant — telling the chef what the baby's order is.

People Have Been Eating It For Thousands Of Years

While placenta snacking might seem like a new practice, it's actually been around for thousands of years. It's just that now celebrities can tweet about it. While there are no sufficient scientific studies to support the notion that eating a placenta will help fight postpartum depression, balance out hormone levels, and help the mother heal faster after labor, lots of people are happy to try. The psychosomatic effects are real, and there are no known negative effects, either.

Images: sarote pruksachat/Moment/Getty Images; Giphy