There are different ideas about placenta ingestion after birth. While it is true most mammals eat their placenta right after birth, they do so raw, directly after it is expelled. This cleans up a bloody mess (which keeps predators away), and it provides the mother with energy without her needing to leave her vulnerable babies alone to find food.
As humans, we don't do it this way. We process it, and then take it slowly over time. Many lactation experts say this is opposite to how the body works. While pregnant, the placenta sends out hormones that stop us from making milk. This is why, if you pump before birth, you will barely get anything out (and it will be colostrum).
Once baby is born, the placenta comes out. It is the placenta that is responsible for the hormonal changes which turn on the body's milk-making factory. If a piece of the placenta is accidentally left inside the body, it can stop the body from making milk due to the hormones it carries and releases. It can also prevent the uterus from shrinking back up like it needs to to stop bleeding. It may contribute to uterine infection, as well. This is why we should never tolerate a doctor pulling on the cord to try and yank the placenta out before it releases on its own -- the cord or placenta can be torn, and pieces can be left inside.
Many experts say by putting the placental hormones back into the body, it can confuse the body about what it needs to be doing: growing a baby inside, or making milk outside.
Here is tangent, but stick with me, it applies: Medication like Sudafed can cause a person's milk supply to decrease because of how it works (dries up sinuses). Breastfeeding people are told not to use decongestants because of this. BUT a person who has just had a baby will be less impacted, and maybe not impacted at all, because of how their body is making milk at this point -- it is making milk simply because the body had a baby -- the placenta left the body, causing that chain of hormonal responses which turn the milk-making factory on.
If a person has a breastfeeding 6 month old and takes Sudafed, they have a higher chance of it reducing their supply because their body works in a different way now -- they make milk in direct response to how often and frequently the baby nurses. This is the difference between endocrine control (automatic because of the hormones of birth), and autocrine control (supply and demand).
Another example of how our bodies and hormones differ has to do with the return of our fertility. Some people get their periods back while breastfeeding like normal, 8-10 times a day. Some won't get a period at all until their child has weaned totally and dropped off every single feed, and even then it might take a couple months for their cycle to return. Every body is different. So just be mindful of how things are working for you.
Every person is individual, and what lactation experts are noticing is: Some people have robust, healthy supplies when consuming their processed placenta slowly and over time. And some don't. So guidance to know what to watch out for is imperative. If you choose to have your placenta processed for consumption, be sure your encapsulator is aware of this, and that they can give you guidance on what to expect. Be cautious if they feel this is not true -- enough lactation professionals have experienced this for us to believe it is real and it can happen.
I may sound opposed to the practice of consuming one's placenta. I really am not. I just want more evidence of the benefits -- thus far, I believe the only documented benefit is that people have increased iron levels. I tend to think more about how things are done across the spectrum of all mammals. There is no mammal who has its placenta processed, encapsulated, and then slowly takes it over time. My belief is, if you want to ingest your placenta, do it like other mammals do -- raw and right after birth.
I had a doula birth this weekend. This family was having their second baby; I was with them during the hospital birth of their first daughter almost two years ago. This time they planned a homebirth with our community midwife (whom I love).
I was struck by this couple's groundedness during their first birth. Mom labored for about 5 hours, and then had her baby, with no interventions or medications. She never complained, even when it was within her rights to do so. She never said, "This hurts," or "I want this to be over," or "It's hard." She did not utter one complaint during the whole birth. It really got me thinking: There are people out there who never complain; they just deal with what life offers them and move through it. What a lesson for someone like me.
Last Monday I accompanied a friend and former two-time doula client to an appointment with an OB/GYN. She had her babies with CNMs, but at 2.5 months postpartum, she was still experiencing bleeding, and everyone has decided it is time to figure out why. The first thought was retained placenta; luckily she has had no sufferings with her milk supply -- she is even nursing her infant and her toddler, and there is plenty of milk for all. But that the bleeding has not stopped is disconcerting for her and her practitioners.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)