Placenta... It's What's For Dinner

14/08/2014 16:50 | Updated 22 May 2015

Three Into Four: Placenta... it's what's for dinner

This is the story of me eating my placenta. (Disclaimer: I actually liked it).

After the initial euphoria of giving birth to my first child, Diana, I started experiencing many of the difficulties that are commonly encountered post-baby: breastfeeding issues and mastitis, lack of milk (and therefore panic about D's inability to get back to birth weight after a month) and low energy levels.

Overall, I was still happy (I was having the greatest love affair of my life), but I wasn't really functioning that well and had started to run out of fuel about four months in (admittedly I did somehow get married and start full-time work by then, which probably didn't help). And I continued to find breastfeeding a struggle, which was problematic since I was doing it an average of 10 times a day.

I'm not sure if it was a scholarly article that first alerted me to the possible pros of eating placenta or a January Jones related headline in a celeb gossip mag (most probably the latter since I'm pretty sure I'm no longer capable of reading anything remotely challenging), but at some point in my second pregnancy I decided that I was going to consume my placenta.

For the record, other than my slightly out-of-character natural water births, eating placenta doesn't really fit with the rest of my personality (junk food binges, trash TV obsession, etc). But when purported post-partum benefits include prevention of baby blues, better moods, quicker healing time (and reduction in bleeding), more energy and improved milk production, who am I to argue? Even if it does involve eating something I delivered. Eww.

My midwives referred me to Charlotte Mills of the IPEN Network, an experienced midwife who also specialises in all sorts of things placenta-related: encapsulation, smoothie making, placenta tinctures, etc (yes, there are an extraordinary number of things you can do with placentas!) I decided on capsules (which are dehydrated and mixed with lemon and ginger according to Chinese medicine recipes), and on a smoothie (anything tastes decent with almond milk, right?)

As it turns out, there are placenta benefits before you even deliver: I became so obsessed with my placenta (you need to bring a container to the hospital to keep it in and make sure it's frozen or refrigerated quickly after birth), that I ended up focusing on it through most of the delivery and kept asking the midwives how the placenta was doing.

And after Charlotte arrived to cut a bit of the placenta off so that I could add it into a smoothie at home (she took the rest to make the capsules), I placed the piece of placenta in its little tub on the windowsill of my hospital room and eagerly awaited the supermum powers it would bequeath to me.

Sadly, that piece of placenta never made it home with me - despite checking on it (almost) as often as I checked on baby Liv, in the rush of getting home I managed to forget it in the room (I pity the person who had my room afterwards).

That weekend, however, I started swallowing my three-capsule-a-day regime (for six weeks, and then you take them as and when needed) and waited for the magic to begin. They didn't taste particularly offensive, or like much of anything, in fact. I was also presented with an umbilical cord keepsake in the shape of a heart which I think is rather lovely. Unfortunately, my husband is not brought to happy tears by looking at my discarded umbilicus like I am, so it's not going to be hanging over Liv's cot anytime soon.

After a couple of days of swallowing placenta pills, I was a complete convert. I had copious amounts of milk, boundless energy (which I regrettably used to clean the house while bouncing Liv in a Bjorn) and I was in great spirits. Now, some would probably argue that it was the placebo effect (the encapsulation costs around £150 so I desperately needed this to be worth my while), but who cares? I felt great, despite having another child to look after as well as a newborn baby.

Unlike the early weeks with Diana where I had blocked ducts and painful swelling the whole time, the breastfeeding, which I'd been sort-of dreading, turned out to be one of the easier aspects of baby number two, and it just clicked. I even started to enjoy myself.

Who knows if any of this is placenta-consumption related? A multitude of factors could be responsible for making me feel more energised, happier and like a prize cow instead of a second-rate one this time around. I'm sure the fact that having a two-year-old bouncing off the walls and begging to be entertained has played some role in my ability to function.

But since I have paid for the privilege of ingesting my placenta, I'd like to think that it did have something to do with it. And, crazy, or bizarre, or gross, or unthinkable as it may have been to me once upon a time, the whole experience was a positive one which got my mind refocused on things other than the terror of labour and fear of breastfeeding failure. I'm really pleased I did it.

Added bonus: Due to Liv's ginormous size, my placenta was also the size of a small child and produced 216 capsules. So I have enough to get me through many a mood swing in the weeks to come... although I'm still waiting for my January Jones transformation.

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