The placenta is your baby’s first companion. The placenta is the organ that develops alongside your baby in your uterus. Over the course of your pregnancy, oxygen and nutrients are passed through the umbilical cord extending from the placenta to your baby.
Placentas may not be the prettiest things to look at, but they are amazing, nutrient rich organs and, for this reason, many mothers choose to have their placentas encapsulated for oral consumption. There are many benefits to placenta encapsulation- including increased production of oxytocin, restoration of iron levels in the body, and increased milk supply (to name just a few!) However, in this blog post we will be exploring options for mothers who aren’t interested in consuming their placentas but are still interested in retaining some of this organ’s wonderful healing properties.
1. Lotus Birth
“Lotus Birth” is the term used when a baby is kept attached to his umbilical cord until the cord falls away naturally. In order for this to happen, the placenta is preserved using salt and herbs, and is kept in a container near the baby for the first few days of life. The placenta remains in close proximity to the baby until the cord naturally separates from the baby’s belly button, which usually occurs between 3-10 days following birth.
There are several reasons that parents choose a Lotus Birth. Parents who choose to keep their baby attached to its placenta throughout the first days of life believe that this is a more gentle introduction to the world. Parents may also be interested in ensuring that their baby retains every bit of nourishment from their cord blood. Additionally, parents may wish to honor the role of the placenta as their child’s source of life, and for this reason choose to prolong their child’s relationship with the placenta.
2. Placenta Salve
Placenta salves are an excellent option for women who are interested in utilizing their placenta for their postpartum recovery. Placenta salves are made by infusing small pieces of the placenta into a salve, which is then applied topically. Here at Madam Doula, our placenta salves are made from calendula oil. Calendula is an incredible flower with anti-fungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. These amazing healing properties are combined with the placenta, which moisturizes, tightens, and rejuvenates skin. Our salves are perfect for use on perineal tears, on Cesarean scars, cracked nipples, rashes, or any other skin affliction.
3. Placenta Art
Many people find the sight of placentas overwhelming, and I can understand why! The sight of the placenta can be disagreeable to those who aren’t used to seeing them. What most people don’t realize is that the placenta has a beautiful pattern reminiscent of the tree of life on its fetal side. Making a print from a placenta is easy. With the “tree of life” side of the placenta facing up, gently press down a sheet of watercolor paper onto the placenta. Then, slowly peel the paper from the placenta, and you’ll be left with a placenta print!
As a placenta specialist, I regularly make placenta prints for my clients. Depending on the client’s wishes, I sometimes will outline the placenta print in ink or add watercolor paint to the print. Prints can also be made using food coloring, but I reserve the use of food coloring for clients who are not consuming their placenta.
4. Umbilical Cord Keepsake
Umbilical cord keepsakes are made from your baby’s dehydrated umbilical cord. Depending on the length of the cord, different types of keepsakes can be made. The most common keepsake that I make is a small heart. However, with longer umbilical cords I am able to make letters, such as initial of the baby’s name or even entire words, such as “love”.
Cord keepsakes are an excellent option for mothers who may not be interested in the process of placenta encapsulation but still want to hold onto a piece of the amazing organ that first nourished their child. They can also be shared with your baby in the future! These beautiful keepsakes can be displayed alongside the placenta print in a shadow box frame.
5. Placenta Burial Ceremony
Placenta burial rituals are ancient. In centuries past, one reason that placentas were buried was to stop them from decaying and attracting wild animals or vermin. However, for cultures across the world, the burial of the placenta is rooted in spiritual meaning. Some cultures view the placenta as the baby’s spirit guide, and it is buried with honor. Other cultures view the placenta as a tie to a baby’s land and heritage and therefore the placenta is buried on the baby’s native land. The burial of a placenta, in different parts of the world, is seen as a blessing.
In the United States, the placenta is considered medical waste and is often quickly incinerated following its birth.
Parents who want to honor their placenta and its role in their baby’s life may choose to take the placenta home with them. The logistics of a burial ceremony are personal and up to each individual family to decide. Many families choose to honor their placenta with a ceremony and then plant a tree on the spot where the placenta is buried.