The placenta is a confounding element of labor and delivery. Giving birth to a brand new entire person is largely hailed as the single most challenging and unifying event humans undertake. This monumental feat comes after growing this would-be human INSIDE of you, which – let’s be honest – is pretty bananas. So after 40ish weeks of gestation and who-really-knows how many hours of labor, you have a baby!
But, it’s not over yet.
Now comes what we refer to as the 3rd stage of labor, a part so important it had its own category: delivery of the placenta. This new organ is something you grew before the belly fruit began to resemble anything other than a seahorse (yes, offense). The placenta makes good use of all the extra blood you’ve been pumping around (up to 50% more in fact) as it transmits nutrients and oxygen to the fetus and acts as filter for bacteria and other unsavory characters you’d prefer your child waited until daycare to meet. Its delivery has to be carefully attended to because any retained pieces can cause serious problems for you and ain’t nobody got time for that – you’ve got a baby now! So once this blood filled, brain looking, much-bigger-than-you-thought-
I’m glad you asked.
The placenta is a mystifying entity that different cultures hold in various high regard. Some groups believe it has a spirit of its own and must be buried near the family house as a guide of sorts. This doesn’t seem so strange to me – it has to be gestated and born along with the baby, and without it, baby would have never made it this far. Other cultures use it more practically as fertilizer – all hail the pragmatist. Companies have been built around their ability to encapsulate it so that you can eat it; preesh you, capitalism. And, of course my favorite, carrying it around with the baby until the umbilical cord (along with the placenta) dries up and detaches on its own: the lotus birth. A majority of westerners do nothing with it and it is incinerated.
As with most things in birth, to all of these options I say yes. Women need to support other women as we navigate the veritable cornucopia of options available to us. Empowered pregnancy will help you make the best decision for your family regarding your placenta while respecting your culture and beliefs.