Why I ate my placenta
So, if you haven’t been put off by the title of this post… here goes!
Just over six years ago I was given a very late diagnosis of post natal depression (PND). My son was just over two years old and I had been living with this feeling of overwhelm, fear, shame, guilt and anxiety which started creeping up on me a few weeks after his birth.
One day on the way to work (at a long-term office job I held at the time), I just shut down.
It honestly felt like a dark, heavy curtain had been laid on top of me and I couldn’t shake it off. I pulled the car over and a panic attack ensued. Needless to say, I didn’t make it work that day or for weeks after that and when I did return, I wasn’t me. I had done a pretty good job of covering things up, without really realising I was covering anything up… but now I was laid bare and they (my parents, my husband, my work colleagues) could all see that I had got lost somewhere along the way.
I now needed to start what felt like a long, arduous journey back to me. For anyone reading this who has PND, or is worried about getting PND, I made it… and then some. I am thankful that my experience of something awful showed me my true courage, potential, wisdom and strength – and it can show you yours as well.
But this blog isn’t about my PND journey – I have shared that before and I will share it again – but PND is one of the reasons why I ate my placenta.
Yuck – it even makes me shudder when I say it out loud!
After experiencing PND, I didn’t ever think I would be strong enough or brave enough to have another child. I couldn’t face the thought of going through it again.
But three years passed and I found myself unexpectedly (well… as unexpected as it can be!) pregnant again. My initial reaction was joy and wonder, followed by intense fear and a feeling of being ‘on edge’ – high alert I guess you would call it. I think I was being vigilant and looking out for signs that I missed or didn’t admit to myself last time.
I decided I needed to take control and so I started researching ways to ‘fend off’ another PND experience. One in ten women experience it and one in four women will have a period of depression in their lives. Now, I know that PND is a mental illness and no matter what you do, you can still end up going through it.
Even so, I decided a proactive approach was the way forward, so I embarked on healthy eating (I was addicted to cucumber sticks and hummous by the end of the nine months!), exercise (Pilates), and self care (a combination of massage and reiki really worked for me) and started my hypnobirthing practice (MP3 and relaxation techniques) pretty much as soon as I knew I was pregnant. I felt great. The best I think I have ever felt – so healthy, calm and peaceful. But still I had a nagging fear about what might happen once I had my baby… how would I feel? How would I cope?
That was when I read an article about placenta encapsulation. The article didn’t really give me very much information or evidence, but it told the story of how a woman had consumed her placenta in order to fend off another incident of PND.
I have to admit, I was sold at that point. If there was ANY chance that doing this very icky – okay, gross – thing would prevent me going to that very bleak place again, I was going to do it. My husband had other ideas though… one look at the article (which had a pretty graphic picture) and he said “No! Don’t mention it again, I feel sick!”.
I knew I had my work cut out – particularly as three years ago there wasn’t a full encapsulation service in my area and I would need to enlist his help! The research I did identified that there wasn’t any specific scientific evidence I could use to cajole my husband into it, but I remained convinced, and eventually so was he.
Here is what I found most compelling…
– Scientific research indicates that PND could be linked to a lack of essential nutrients like vitamin B6 and hormone CRH (our stress reducer hormone) both of which are in high supply in our placenta. By consuming raw or encapsulated placenta, we can replace these nutrients and thus prevent or reduce baby blues or PND.
– Low progesterone levels are thought to be linked to depression. Studies have shown that progesterone supplements can impact PND. Progesterone levels have been found to increase in the placenta after the encapsulation process has taken place – thus by consuming your placenta, you can increase your progesterone levels.
I knew that lack of sleep, feeling anxious and my struggle to breastfeed also factored in why I ended up with PND, so when I learnt that placenta consumption could affect the following, I knew nothing was going to stop me from giving it a go:
• Encourage a quick and healthy milk supply
• Balance hormonal peaks and drops
• Reduce stress levels
• Prevent the baby blues and postnatal depression
• Boost energy to cope with a busy day after little sleep
In addition to this, placenta consumption is also known to:
• Improve the appearance of skin/hair/nails
• Reduce post-birth bleeding quickly
So, I did it.
I had a placenta smoothie and a great big jar of placenta pills!
The effect was brilliant. Almost instantly my post birth bleeding slowed down. I found myself with energy, despite this being my third baby and having to still care for two other small (ish) children. I could really tell if I hadn’t taken my placenta pill on time, because I would notice an energy dip. After taking the tablet I would be bouncing around, yet still able to get to sleep when I needed to!
My milk came in quicker than it ever had before, it was plentiful and I felt so much more relaxed in that post-natal period compared to how I had felt with the previous two.
PND did not rear its ugly head again.
So, did eating my placenta stop me from getting PND a second time? I don’t really know for sure, but even if it was a placebo effect, it was exactly what I needed and I don’t regret it for a second!
Before you dismiss this somewhat unconventional idea, do some research – but also talk to women who have encapsulated their placentas and hear their story. We are all telling similar tales!
This website was really helpful in pointing me towards some studies and information about placenta encapsulation.