If prim and proper Betty Draper did it, so can you.
Actress January Jones gave birth to her son Xander last September, then ate the placenta. Yum! It can be prepared in many ways. Some folks have it dried, ground up and made into pills – a process called encapsulation….double yum!
Others, like Phyllis Grant, the wife of “Big Love” actor Matt Ross, prefer it sautéed in onions, garlic and tomatoes. “Mine tasted like ragu with a couple of chewy pieces,” says Grant. Super duper yum!
Venus French (no known Hollywood connection, besides the sound of her name) made a placenta-and-tomato-juice smoothie after the birth of her daughter.
“Within two hours of giving birth I was sucking it down,” says French. Refreshing and tasty!
So why are these women doing this? Why are they eating the big, sloppy, bloody thing that flops out of them after they give birth to their babies? I was at the birth of my kids, in the room, and I saw the placenta. A smoothie was not the first thing that came to my mind.
Advocates of placenta consumption tout its benefits in fighting off post-partum depression and fatigue. During the third tri-mester, the placenta releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (or CRH), which helps reduce stress. It is also thought to be rich in iron and vitamin B6. So why not use some of that B6 and CRH after little Xander pops out?
Because it’s self cannibalism, that’s why! If I had my appendix removed, I can tell you, with 99.99% certainty, that I would not eat it. Seriously, it’s icky.
Grant responds, “It didn’t gross me out at all. If you’re really going to be committed to doing something like this, there’s really no ick factor involved. It felt powerful and magical and important.”
Yes, magical and important – and super gross.
Felicia Roche, an educator of doulas (basically, mid-wives with a new age bent), says demand for turning placentas into pills has skyrocketed in the last two years, from half of her clients requesting it to 90%. She points out that within Chinese, Hungarian and African cultures, women have done it for centuries.
Doesn’t make it not gross. I knew a woman who didn’t eat hers, but did have a ceremony and buried it next to a tree in her back yard. That would be the magic part, I guess. Don’t know how the tree is faring.
“Almost all mammals eat their placentas,” Roche points out.
San Francisco gynecologist Jennifer Gunter, who won’t recommend placenta consumption one way or the other until she sees scientific studies on the matter, points out something else: “You can’t really compare our reproductive organs to animals. They eat their stillborns, too.”
Oh you skeptical scientific types, with your fancy degrees and years of training and board certifications! What do you know?!
Roche counters that “People text me the same day saying they feel less anxious or depressed.” How’s that for a study, Ms. Gunter!
The good news is that, even if you have your baby in a hospital, rather than at home in the bathtub surrounded by chanting wiccans, incense and Hollywood actresses, regular old boring doctors will still accommodate you. If asked, most doctors will slip the placenta in a plastic bag for you to take home. Personally, I found it hard enough to remember the car seat, the little baby hat, and the onesie we brought along, let alone any spare organs ejected from my wife’s coochie during the birth.
Typically, the placenta is rushed home, steamed with herbs, dehydrated, ground, and run through an encapsulation machine. Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? I can’t help but think of grinding sausage. And I eat sausage. So what’s my problem?
Oh, that’s right: it’s unbelievably foul and icky!
I think this trend is screaming for a demographic break down. I’d love to know how California and New York compare to the rest of the country, and I’d love to know the median income of placenta eaters vs. placenta thrower-awayers.
And now, I’d like to stop talking about placentas all together.