Why I ate my baby’s placenta

Mothers who eat the afterbirth credit it with promoting breast-milk production and preventing or reducing postpartum depression, says Arlene Harris.

LORRAINE Duffy had problems breast-feeding when she gave birth to her first child 15 years ago.

For some unknown reason, her milk took a long time to come in and when it did there wasn’t a great supply.

So, last year, when Lorraine got pregnant with her second child, she considered ways of enhancing her milk supply. One of the options was consuming the placenta after delivery.

Intrigued by the notion, she researched it and decided that she would ingest her placenta after the birth — all she needed to do now was to persuade her obstetrician, and her husband, of the benefits.

“I had a lot of problems feeding my son, Darragh, so before Ruby was born, last year, I was determined to do what I could to help my milk come in,” says the Mayo woman.

“I read lots of reviews about placenta-encapsulation (turning the placenta into edible capsules) and decided I would like to give it a go.

“The only problem was that I couldn’t do it on my own, as it is a lengthy and delicate process, so I needed the help of my husband, Noel, and the staff at the hospital where I was giving birth.

“When I outlined all the benefits and explained to Noel why it was a good idea, he agreed to do it — providing I didn’t tell anyone about it.”

The 36-year-old then discussed the idea with her midwife and obstetrician, and both agreed to help Noel by keeping the placenta in a sterile container and passing it on to him as soon as possible after delivery.

“Once everyone was in agreement, I purchased a home-encapsulation kit from Britain (which cost

€120) and Noel figured out how to use it,” Lorraine says.

“I had told lots of people, at this stage, and most thought it was a bit strange but were interested in finding out more about it.

“So, after I gave birth to Ruby by caesarian section nine months ago, the placenta was put in a plastic container and my mum brought it home and put it in the fridge.

Then, when Noel got back to the house, he got to work with the preparations. He is a butcher, so knew he wouldn’t be grossed-out by the preparation, which entails trimming off the excess cord, washing the placenta and squeezing out the blood clots.

“It wasn’t a job for the faint-hearted, but Noel ignored the fact that it was part of my body and just got on with it. Then, once it was ready, he steamed it and put it in the dehydration kit, which dries it out completely.

“The next morning, it was as dry as a biscuit and, after grinding it up into a fine powder, Noel put it all into the little capsules and finally into a jar.

“I couldn’t believe it when he turned up at the hospital with the job done. Everyone was fascinated and all the medical staff came to have a look as they had never seen anything like it,” she says.

Lorraine started taking the capsules at once and was delighted when her milk came in on day two. She also felt less tired than after her previous delivery, and put this down to the nutrients she had ingested from the placenta.

“I started taking the tablets straightaway and my milk came in great quantities the next day. I also felt fantastic and didn’t have any of the tearfulness usually associated with a new baby. And even though I had a section, I was in the supermarket with Ruby when she was just six days old. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but all I know is that I felt fantastic.”

When Lorraine gave birth, there were no trained specialists in Ireland, but she has since trained as a placenta-encapsulation specialist and is available to assist women all along the west coast of the country.

She is now among a growing number of women who have realised the benefits of consuming the placenta after birth and have been trained in the process of encapsulation.

Lisa Cotter, from Cork, is also an encapsulation specialist. She says the capsules and the smoothie option are natural and offer great benefits to new mothers.

“Placenta-encapsulation has become a growing trend across the world for many years and has recently been made popular by celebrities such as January Jones, who had her placenta encapsulated after giving birth,” Lisa says.

“It is also possible to get the benefits through a smoothie — this contains two €2 coin-sized pieces of placenta blended with fresh raspberries, a banana and some spring water.

“It has been proven that the symptoms of postpartum depression are linked with the severe lack of essential nutrients post-birth, such as vitamin B6 and CRH, both are of high supply in the placenta.

“Consuming the placenta nourishes the mother of the lost essential nutrients and may entirely prevent the baby blues and/or postpartum depression.”

The health benefits

Research has shown that consuming the placenta can:

¦ Increase milk production.

¦ Slow or stop postpartum haemorrhaging.

¦ Reduce the chances of suffering from ‘baby blues’ and/or post-natal depression.

¦ Replenish nutrients lost during birth, such as iron and B6.

¦ Replenish hormones such as oxyticin and CRH (our stress-reducing hormone).

¦ Increase energy levels.”

¦ For more information, or to find a specialist in your area, visit www.placentanetwork.com.

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