The practice of placentophagia, eating the placenta, is practiced in many parts of the world, and is said to stem postpartum depression and help to contract the uterus after the birth.
After Chrissy Schilling had her first baby over the weekend, her twin sister Kathy cooked up the placenta and they had a feast. They put it on pasta and on a sandwich. They even put pictures of the meal on Facebook!
Sure, some people thought it was gross -- but that didn't deter the sisters. "I think people being grossed out by this is mostly just 'fear of the unknown,'" Kathy says. "It's the same sort of reaction people have when it even comes to the cuisine of other cultures--what's normal in another culture can seem repulsive to one's own. Happens all the time! Most of the Western world can't even fathom having duck head on the menu, but it doesn't make the food any less acceptable as a meal."
She continues: "When Chrissy first brought up the idea about cooking the placenta, I looked around online and found the most inspiring article about it. The writer's attitude was just all-around positive and even a little playful about the subject, and I thought, 'Hey, this isn't such a big deal after all!' Other medical/health articles about placenta-eating shared the same general consensus--as long as the mother is good and healthy, no harm can come from eating the placenta."
What does she say to the haters? "I think the fact that the placenta is unquestionably attached to the concept of 'baby' (and who doesn't like a cute baby?) probably makes people take the matter personally and forget to look at it more objectively," she says. "The placenta became a simple piece of meat for cooking. And no babies were harmed in the process. That's my take on it."
What are their thoughts on the "meal" itself?
Twin sister Kathy says:
I would say that the placenta is so nourishing for the baby during pregnancy that there is still much to gain from it even after the birth. It's a good 6 lbs of meat that's just chock full of lingering blood, vitamins, and hormones that can still in part be transferred upon eating -- even through cooking. When I cooked it, I cleaned the surface blood off of it, but kept anything that seaped out of it into the sauce. I know I was feeling pretty giddy while eating, so maybe that was some of the happy hormones effects taking place.
The "recipe" was pretty simple, but preparation was very fun! First, I washed off any clots and snipped/tore away the membrane. Websites suggested this, and I imagine it's because it'd be chewy. The umbilical cord required a pair of scissors to cut through and I had to marvel at how incredible tough that piece was! After it was pretty clean, I sliced it into bite-size chunks, and cooked it with the basic ingredients I mentioned on my Facebook album. The taste of the meat itself was surprisingly tasteful (I thought it'd be bland, but it absorbed the flavors of the ingredients very well). It wasn't TOUGH, but not sloppy either. Just the right kind of texture that I like.
New mom Chrissy says:
The placenta is such an amazing organ in all its done for my baby that it didn't seem right to simply throw it away. My thought was "being the only organ that the human body makes that naturally exits the body, why not take advantage of it?"
By taking it in again, it was symbolic for me as a way to truly say "good-bye" to my 9-month pregnancy and "hello" to an exciting (albeit challenging) new chapter in my life. While eating it, I thought a lot about what my pregnancy had demanded of me all those months -- how careful I'd been in my diet, trying to give my body and baby only the best, how I practiced relaxation techniques to encourage a stress-free environment for my baby in her internal world, and how all that careful attention had resulted in this healthy organ and subsequently healthy baby girl.
Physiologically speaking, the placenta is still so rich in iron and hormones even after it's shed that I knew it'd help me in my immediate recovery from my long labor (24 hours). And it did! My daughter was born at 10:34pm, so it was far too late to eat the placenta that night--I was exhausted as was my sister (the chef). So we froze it and ended up eating it two days later for dinner. The energy levels I had before and after the consumption were immediately noticible to me. The first 24 hours after my daughter's birth, I would nurse on the move around the apartment, showing her around, but would have to take frequent breaks to sit because of how light-headed I felt. But after that second night, with a belly full of placenta, those dizzy spells completely vanished! Also, that same night my milk came in--pretty soon comparatively speaking--and I like to think that can be attributed to that extra burst of nutrients I got...all from something I completely manufactured from scratch!
They say it also helps with abating postpartum depression and though it may be too soon to tell, I feel like I'm on Cloud 9 and have the feeling it's going to stay like that!