Know your body even more after birth – Your 4th trimester awaits and within, comes the placenta. The placenta is an essential part of the postpartum process, yet it often goes unnoticed and unappreciated and I’m about to change that in this extensive human placenta postpartum Guide.
Throughout your pregnancy, the function of the placenta plays a vital role in providing nourishment and protection for your baby. In order to ensure a smooth transition into motherhood, it’s important for all expecting mothers to understand both the physical and emotional benefits that come along with the placenta.
This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about this remarkable organ – from its development during pregnancy to postpartum practices such as placenta encapsulation, burial or cremation.
Whether you choose to get informed and involved or simply want an overview of what happens after delivery, this guide offers helpful insight into one of the most important aspects of postpartum care.
What is the Placenta?
The placenta is the organ that attaches to the uterus during pregnancy and connects baby to the mother. It functions as a nutrient delivery system, providing oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream to her developing fetus via an umbilical cord. The placenta also serves as a filter, eliminating waste products from baby’s bloodstream before they reach mom. The placenta also produces hormones essential for fetal development, including estrogen and progesterone. By doing this, it helps to regulate the pregnancy and protects baby from infections.
Your placenta is fully functioning around 10 weeks after conception and continues to grow as your pregnancy progresses. During the third trimester, it can measure up to 20 inches in diameter; however, it only weighs about 2 pounds.
Development of Placenta During Pregnancy
During the first trimester of pregnancy, the placenta begins forming in response to hormones released by both mother and baby. It takes about 5-7 weeks for it to attach itself securely inside the womb; once it does so, its job is ready to begin! The placenta provides all the nutrition to your growing baby and helps regulate your pregnancy. It is also responsible for producing hormones essential for fetal development, such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones, mentioned before are essential.
Estrogen and progesterone work together to help your baby grow and develop in utero. They also play a role in regulating your body’s hormones, which can help reduce the risk of certain pregnancy complications.
Being low or not having the placenta produce the correct amount of estrogen or progesterone during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor or even miscarriage. If your body/placenta isn’t producing these hormones well, you’ll experience a different set of symptoms such as frequent contractions, vaginal bleeding, and abdominal pain. Be sure to notify your midwife, birth assistant, or care provider right away if that happens.
Benefits of Keeping Your Placenta After Birth
1. Reduces Postpartum Bleeding: The placenta contains hormones that reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, helping mothers adjust to their normal blood volume more quickly.
2. Replenishes Nutrients: The placenta helps replenish essential nutrients like iron and protein that are lost during labor and delivery.
3. Regulates Hormones: The placenta is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate mother’s body after birth. This can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
4. Boosts Milk Supply: Studies have shown that consuming a placenta can increase milk supply in nursing mothers.
5. Enhances Postpartum Recovery: Consuming the placenta may help boost energy levels and promote healing after childbirth.
6. Prevents Anemia: Placenta consumption can help prevent postpartum anemia by replenishing iron lost during delivery.
7. Reduces Stress and Fatigue: The hormones produced by the placenta can help reduce stress, fatigue, and even insomnia in mothers after childbirth.
8. Boosts Uterine Health: Consuming the placenta helps to tone and reduce uterine swelling following birth.
9. Rebalances Hormones: The hormones produced by the placenta can help to balance hormone levels in mothers, which helps with mood regulation and energy levels.
10. Stimulates Breastmilk Production: Some studies have shown that consuming the placenta can help to stimulate breastmilk production in nursing mothers.
Caring for Your Placenta Postpartum
Caring for your placenta after birth is important to ensure that it can be used safely and effectively. It’s important to take the necessary steps to properly store and handle the placenta so that you can reap the benefits of consuming it. There are several different ways to care for your placenta postpartum, from freeze-drying to encapsulating. Here are some tips on how to best care for your placenta postpartum:
Have a knowledgeable professional assist you: It’s important to have a knowledgeable professional, such as a midwife or doula, help you with the process of preparing and handling your placenta. They can provide advice on the best way to prepare and store your placenta for ingestion, as well as answer any questions you may have.
Cleaning and Handling
It’s important to properly clean and handle your placenta in order to ensure that it is safe for consumption. After birth, the placenta should be placed in a sterile container and kept refrigerated or frozen within a few hours. For the most part, the placenta is pretty robust, after all, look what it did in the last nine months! Your midwife or birth advocate will let you know if there are any abnormalities upon inspection.
If you are in the hospital and wish to keep your placenta after birth, you should make sure to discuss this with your medical team beforehand. You will be required to sign a release form in order to take the placenta home. Do this before you go to the hospital, else you risk losing your placenta.
Storing and Refrigerating Guidelines
Once the placenta has been cleaned, it should be wrapped in a sterile cloth and placed in an air-tight container. It can then be refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months. If you plan on consuming your placenta, it’s important to properly store it in order to prevent spoilage. The general rule of thumb is to use the placenta within two weeks of birth. If you are undecided, freeze it!
If you don’t choose to consume the placenta (are you sure??), there are several disposal options. The placenta can be buried in the ground, planted under a tree, placed in a river or ocean, or composted. Unfortunately, many moms, myself included, just don’t know the magical benefits of this amazing organ God has produced in our bodies with our precious babies. Sure, you could just throw it away, but, don’t. Give it more respect than that and plant a tree over it, or at the very least, nourish your garden to continue giving life outside your body.
Postpartum Placenta Remedies and Uses
In addition to consuming the placenta postpartum, there are many other ways it can be used for medicinal purposes. In Chinese medicine, the placenta is believed to possess powerful healing properties as well as emotional and spiritual benefits. There is a myriad of uses for your placenta and this amazing organ is here for you to fully benefit from it now that your baby no longer needs its protection and functions – now it’s here to serve you in your 4th trimester. Here are some of the many uses and remedies that can be made with a postpartum placenta.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the placenta is used to replenish the body with vital nutrients and hormones that may have been depleted during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. It can also be used to improve energy levels, boost milk production in nursing mothers, regulate hormones, reduce postpartum bleeding, and increase your overall health as a new mom.
The TCM valued placentas so much that they called them “the ‘second heart’ of our body”. A few ways that they used the placenta medicinally were in the form of placenta pills, placenta tincture or as a topical ointment.
Placenta capsules are an extremely popular way to consume the placenta postpartum and reap its many benefits. The process involves dehydrating, grinding, and encapsulating the placenta. It can then be taken daily in capsule form, providing an ongoing source of nourishment for the body. In order to create your own capsules, it’s best to have your midwife or a certified encapsulator as you have a new baby to snuggle with!
A placenta tincture is a liquid form of the placenta that has been steeped in alcohol or glycerin for several weeks. This option is extremely convenient as it takes up little space and allows for easy transport. It can then be taken in small doses as needed or added to other remedies.
Topical Ointment & Salve
The placenta can also be made into a topical ointment that can be applied directly to the skin. This is especially beneficial for healing skin irritations, cuts, or bruises. It can also be used on sore nipples and perineal tears in postpartum moms.
Eating the Placenta: Pros and Cons
Now that you know all the different ways of using the placenta postpartum, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of consuming it. Eating your placenta can be beneficial as it is rich in iron, B vitamins, minerals, and hormones that may provide energy and stress relief for new moms.
On the other hand, there is a risk of infection or other contaminants if the placenta is not handled properly. Additionally, it may be difficult to digest and can cause stomach upset in some individuals. As barbaric as this may sound as a human, it’s totally not!
Overall, consuming the placenta is entirely up to you as an individual mom. Speak with your midwife or birth advocate if you’re considering it so they can provide support and answer any questions or concerns you may have. It’s also advantageous to study and read about how traditional cultures, from various parts of the world, used their placenta.
The postpartum period is an incredibly special time for mothers and their babies, and your placenta is here to provide you with extra love and nourishment in this special season. Whether you choose to consume it or use it medicinally, make sure to fully appreciate this incredible organ and all its functions!
Postpartum Guide: Making Tinctures, Capsules, Ointments and Salves
Making tinctures, capsules, ointments and salves with your postpartum placenta is a great way to take advantage of the many benefits it can provide. It’s important to find a trained and certified encapsulator, midwife, or herbalist to help you in this process as they can ensure that everything is handled properly and safely. However, I have some ready-to-make placenta recipes because no new mama ought to be without one of her best creations birthed with her child.
Making a Placenta Tinctures
Fresh – Place freshly cut, & cleaned placenta pieces into a mason jar. Fill the jar with equal parts vodka and spring water. Tightly close the lid, shake, and store in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks. After the timeframe, strain the tincture into a clean jar and discard any remaining placenta pieces. You can place it in an amber jar or clear jar, just keep it in the fridge if you are “reusing” a dropper or spoon.
Dosage may vary based on your needs, consult with your birth attendant or midwife for recommendations.
Tinctures from TCM Prepared –
Prepare Traditional Chinese Herbs for your placenta. The herbs to use for this preparation are rosemary, lavender, ginger, and lemon, they are all safe, and effective for postpartum moms. Use about 1/2 – 1 T each of the dried herbs, placing fresh lemon slices on top of the placenta. You can then boil, in a double broiler, herbs in the water, placenta on top, and steam your placenta for 20 minutes, then cut placenta pieces into a mason jar. Fill the jar with equal parts vodka and spring water.
Tightly close the lid, shake, and store in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks. After the timeframe, strain the tincture into a clean jar and discard any remaining placenta pieces. You can place it in an amber jar or clear jar, just keep it in the fridge if you are “reusing” a dropper or spoon. Dosage may vary based on your needs, consult with your birth attendant or midwife for recommendations.
Prepare Traditional Chinese Herbs for your placenta. The herbs to use for this preparation are rosemary, lavender, ginger, and lemon, they are all safe, and effective for postpartum moms. Use about 1/2 – 1 T each of the dried herbs, placing fresh lemon slices on top of the placenta. Slice the placenta into thin strips and dry completely using a dehydrator or oven on very low heat until the pieces are dry and brittle.
Place the dried strips into a mason jar and fill it with equal parts vodka and spring water. Close the lid tightly, shake, and store in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks. Strain the tincture into a clean jar and discard any remaining placenta pieces, then store the tincture in an amber jar or clear if you are “reusing” a dropper or spoon. Dosage may vary, consult with your birth attendant or midwife for recommendations.
Making Placenta Pills
Most women opt for the placenta pill option. It’s the fastest, usually getting it back within 48 hours of giving birth and you won’t taste it (if that is a concern of yours). If anyone takes longers than 72 hours, get someone else to prepare it – you need it as soon as possible! Having your amazing afterbirth shortly after having your baby helps with the transition and promotes postpartum healing, developing and increasing your milk supply, helping to stabilize your hormones, increasing your iron levels, and in many cases, helping prevent postpartum depression.
If you’re going to make your own or employ a family member to help, here are a couple of options.
Dehydrated – In order to make pills from a dehydrated placenta, you will need to grind it up into a fine powder (I use a Vitamix). Once this is done, the powder can be encapsulated in empty vegan capsules. Dosage may vary, consult with your birth attendant or midwife for recommendations.
Using Your Placenta for Skin Care Products
Using your placenta for skin care products is an amazing way to include your placenta into your postpartum healing, 4th trimester, journey. The placenta contains essential materials that are beneficial to the skin, such as hormones and proteins. You can make a face mask, serum, or balm from it depending on your needs and what you have available.
To create a facial mask: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of finely ground dehydrated placenta with other ingredients (like honey, yogurt, facial clay, etc.). Massage the mixture into your face, avoiding the eyes and lips. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes before removing it with a warm damp cloth. Feel free to play around with other ingredients, like egg whites, a couple of drops of essential oils, etc.
To create a serum or balm: Combine 1/4 cup of jojoba oil, 1 teaspoon of beeswax, 1/4 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, and two tablespoons of your finely ground dehydrated placenta in a bowl. Gently heat this mixture over a double broiler for about 1-3 hours – infusing the oils. Once done, strain the mixture to remove any “chunks”, then transfer it to a clean jar or container. Use this serum on your skin once or twice daily as part of your skincare routine.
The option to add essential oils to your serum is totally OK!
By including your placenta in your postpartum healing you can get amazing benefits such as increased energy, decreased risk of postpartum depression, increased milk supply, and improved skin health.
Keep in mind that when using your placenta for any of the above purposes you should always consult with a birth attendant or midwife to ensure it is done properly and safely to get the most out of the amazing organ that has and will continue to serve you and your baby!
Final Thoughts on Keeping and Using Your Placenta Postpartum
The placenta is an amazing organ that has the potential to provide a variety of postpartum healing benefits. From making tinctures, capsules, and skin care products, to simply burying it in your backyard – there are many ways to keep and use your placenta after the birth of your baby. The key is to do what feels best for you and your body. Be sure to consult with a birth attendant or midwife for any questions or concerns about the placenta and its uses, and always practice postpartum healing safely.
The placenta doesn’t have to be an intimidating organ – it can be a beautiful way to honor yourself after your baby’s birth. Use the placenta as a way to connect with yourself and your baby, integrating it into your postpartum healing and celebrating the amazing journey you just experienced.
Safety Guidelines for Placenta Remedies and Uses
When using or making any remedies or products from your placenta, it is important to take extra precautions. Here are a few safety guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Make sure that the placenta is stored and handled properly before use – this includes storing it at a temperature lower than 40F (4C) and washing your hands before handling it.
2. Make sure to dehydrate the placenta thoroughly – moisture can lead to bacterial growth, which could be dangerous if consumed.
3. When making a tincture, always use high-proof alcohol for proper preservation of the remedies.
4. Be aware of any possible allergies or sensitivities you may have to placenta remedies.
5. Consult with a birth attendant or midwife prior to using your placenta – they can provide insight and advice on the best way to use it.
Following these safety guidelines will help ensure that you get the most out of keeping and using your placenta for postpartum healing. Postpartum care is an important part of the childbirth process, and understanding your placenta can help to make this transition as smooth as possible. Whether you choose to keep it or dispose of it, each decision should be made with knowledge and consideration.
Ultimately, by learning all that you can about the placenta – its amazing functions during pregnancy, postpartum uses, and benefits – you are helping to ensure a safe and healthy recovery for both you, mom, and baby. Remember, the key to honoring yourself is to do what feels best for you and your body – so take care of yourself and enjoy your 4th-trimester journey!
*Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general knowledge about keeping and using your placenta postpartum and should not be used as a replacement for medical advice from a qualified provider.
What happens to the placenta after birth?
Once your baby is born, the placenta has already started its journey of detaching from the uterine wall. It usually takes between five and 60 minutes to deliver the placenta after your baby has been born. This process is known as “the third stage of labor” and should be managed with an expert midwife or doctor by your side. Once it has passed, continue the process of blood “transfusion” from placenta to baby (when it stops pulsing, that’s when it’s ideal to cut the cord).
Why is the placenta kept after birth?
For most women, they have use for it to begin the recovery process after birth. The placenta is a unique organ that also serves as an important source of nutrition and hormones after pregnancy as they did during your pregnancy. If you have no further use for it, consider planting a tree over this amazing organ to nourish new growth and life.
What is a placenta made of?
The placenta is made of two layers: an outer layer that connects the baby to the uterus (the chorion) and an inner layer that carries oxygen and nourishment from the mother to the baby (the amnion).
Does the placenta come out with the baby?
Usually not at the same time and definitely not before the baby. A healthy placenta is delivered shortly after the baby and contains many vital nutrients for both mom and baby. It’s important to ensure that it is handled in a safe, hygienic way. We recommend storing the placenta with ice packs or sealed containers in a cool place until it can be processed into capsules, tinctures, salves, ointments, or whatever you desire for use.
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