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What is Placenta Eating?
Placenta eating, or Placentophagy, is the consumption of one's own placenta. Many mammals, humans included, who are malnourished consume the placenta after birth to boost their nutrient levels. Consuming the placenta after childbirth has been linked to preventing postpartum depression. Advocates also claim that placenta eating can lower the risk of hemhorraging after birth.
Critics liken placentophagy to cannibalism, but in fact, the two aren't related. Cannibalism is defined eating mucle or fat from a human body. The placenta, however, is a temporary organ created by the body for a specific purpose - much like skin or fingernails. There is also no risk of disease from a human consuming their own placenta.
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Benefits of Placenta Eating
Placenta eating is traditionally practiced in many cultures, including Mexico, China, and the Pacific Islands. Many of these countries revere the placenta and see it as a crucial part of the birth process. However, in the US, the placenta is frequently discarded as medical waste. More and more women, however, are learning about the benefits of placenta eating. These women often choose to birth at home, allowing them to maintain control over what happens to this important organ. The placenta is then frozen or dried until it can be consumed.
There are a variety of benefits associated with placenta eating. Consuming the placenta immediately after birth is linked to increased breast milk production, lowered risk of hemhorrage, and increased nutritional benefits. However, most women who consume their placenta do so to ward off postpartum depression (PPD).
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Preventing Postpardum Depression
Severe PPD is a crippling illness. Many women who have experienced postpartum depression in the past are reluctant to ever experience it again, and will do anything they can to prevent it. Placenta eating is one way to avoid recurring PPD.
Women who choose to eat their placenta often dehydrate and encapsulate it. The dried, crushed placenta is placed into pill-like capsules and consumed daily until it's gone. Consuming the placenta helps to regulate hormone levels after birth, evening out the emotional roller coaster that many women experience post partum.
If you're pregnant and interested in placenta eating to cure postpartum depression, consult your midwife. Many midwives or doulas will encapsulate the placenta for you for a small fee.