placenta 101 pregnancy the chalkboard

holistic expert Erica Chidi is helping expectant mothers across LA demystify the natural pregnancy experience. From nutrition to birthing plans to self-care, this woman has a bead on the issues pregnant mommies need to know about more than anyone we’ve ever met. In true Chalkboard form, Erica handles the wide array of mama needs with a stylish twist. We knew our readers would love her.

We’ll be featuring Erica’s expert insights on mommyhood in a small series of posts fresh from her popular classes named the mama circle, educational farm-to-table gatherings for expectant moms. Since we’re not the shy types, we asked Erica to break down one of the mommy topics that freaks people out the most: the placenta.

Certainly, we understand all the squimishness on this topic. And yet, we’re amazed that women’s own bodies actually produce this perfect resource to match their own postpartum body’s needs. Squimishness aside, we’re not quick to dismiss something nature has clearly designed. Follow along as Erica gets into the nitty-gritty with us!

The Chalkboard Mag: Erica, let’s be honest. Nothing disturbs people more about birth and pregnancy than talking placenta.
Erica Chidi: You’re right! Most people are genuinely spooked by it, or really curious, but you know what’s funny? Most people don’t actually know what it is, or its true function.

TCM: What is the placenta exactly?
EC: It’s a vital organ and the hearth of pregnancy. One side is attached to the uterine wall of the mother and the other side is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord. It’s essential to the baby’s development, and provides nutrition, oxygen and waste removal, and protects the baby from harmful bacteria and foreign molecules. Plus it’s hormone central. Estrogen, progesterone and vital nutrients like iron are synthesized and emitted by the placenta. Once it’s delivered during birth, that hormone- and nutrient-rich reservoir is depleted. This rapid hormone depletion is actually the catalyst of the “baby blues” that most women experience during the first three to five days after birth.

TCM: So, the placenta is rich in almost exactly what a mother’s body lacks after pregnancy and birth? It almost sounds like a custom supplement?
EC: Exactly. I would say it’s a perfectly formulated postpartum supplement. By consuming the placenta (scientific term: placentophagy), new moms can take back some of the nutrients and hormones that were lost during birth.

TCM: What are the benefits of consuming the placenta?
EC: There are numerous benefits. But chiefly, women who consume their placenta report a quicker recovery period, increased energy, improved mood — even an absence of the “baby blues” and a boost in their milk supply. I’ve also had some clients notice improvement in their hair, skin and nails.

TCM: How has the placenta been viewed and used traditionally and in ancient cultures?
EC: In other cultures, it’s revered as an elemental part of the recovery process in the postpartum period. For centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, dried placenta has been used medicinally and has been given to new mothers as a medicinal aid to help promote healing, lactation and energetic balance.

TCM: Would you share a brief testimony of a positive result?
EC: I had client who wanted nothing to do with her placenta after the birth of her first child. She experienced a mild bout of postpartum depression and also quite a bit of hair loss. For her second birth, she knew she wanted to create a buffer for herself, so she decide to encapsulate her placenta and have a raw smoothie shortly after birth. During the following weeks, she had much more energy than the first time around, experienced no depression symptoms and had little or no hair loss.

TCM: How can women who hear what you’re saying, but are still squeamish, make good use of the placenta without much fuss?
EC: As a doula and chef, I often make raw placenta smoothies with organic berries and grass-fed milk for clients who want to go that route. If you’re not working with a doula, or squeamish about going raw, I would hire a reputable placenta encapsulator. An encapsulator will pick up the placenta once it has been delivered (the nurse will pack it up and keep it on ice until it’s collected) and encapsulate it into easy-to-swallow pills, or into a tincture, if you prefer. No fuss, no mess. There’s usually no more than a 24-48 hour turnaround before your pills are delivered to your door.

TCM: Why are you so passionate about warming people up to this idea?
EC: Every new mother needs all the support she can get during the postpartum shift. It’s an incredible time of deep love, bonding and self-discovery, but it’s also physically and emotionally demanding, as her body heals and she adapts to the rhythm of motherhood. Incorporating the placenta during that time can be incredibly additive to the healing process and positively impact her and her family.



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  1. Wow! Just WOW! I’m due with my first child in 8 days. There are so many other things about childbirth that disturbs me than the placenta. I haven’t had a single thought about the placenta during my pregnancy other than it’s placement in my uterus. I know people used to consume it in the olden days, especially in some cultures but COME ON it’s 2014! This is like something from a Hannibal movie! I truly hope that the following articles will be more serious than this. As I said, it’s 2014 and there are so many amazing foods that give you all the added support your post pregnant body craves. Look up how korean women deal after they have given birth. I would love to read about some of those recipes and not about consuming your own flesh with a side of kale and berries. I’m sorry about bad grammar and spelling mistakes, english is not my mother tongue.

    sara | 02.20.2014 | Reply
    • I think this article is perfectly serious. I applaud Chalkboard for touching on a topic most people don’t know about & could benefit from learning about. No one says you have to consume your placenta after giving birth if you don’t wish too, but what is the harm in informing women about a natural part of how all mammals give birth so that they can make the most informed decisions they can? Yes, thank goodness it’s 2014 & we have information about our own bodies available!

      Cassandra | 02.20.2014 | Reply
    • Hi Sara, We encourage all viewpoints and opinions here on The Chalkboard – we love and encourage healthy discourse. We’re grateful to have your voice in the mix!

      The Chalkboard | 02.20.2014 | Reply
  2. Awesome article. My husband put my placenta in the vita mix and poured it into ice cube trays and froze it, I would add it to smoothies in the morning, it looked like frozen raspberry puree. Plan to do the same thing this time around too.

    simone | 02.20.2014 | Reply
    • Love hearing about what’s worked for you, Simone! Great ideas. And congratulations on your second time around!

      The Chalkboard | 02.20.2014 | Reply
  3. I can appreciate the benefits, and maybe I will do it myself, but we have to agree that “My husband put my placenta in the vita mix” sounds disturbing enough lol! Good article though, learned very useful things 🙂 Thanks!

    Zaosina | 02.24.2014 | Reply
  4. I’m so glad you are starting dialogue about the placenta!! I was so squeamish about it just a few months ago (and I would normally consider myself a relatively crunchy, hippie mama) but for some reason when I read about a woman consuming her placenta (and the whole encapsulation process), it totally weirded me out. Jump a few weeks later, after having read more and more articles about the benefits and even talking to two friends who just did encapsulation and have found the benefits to be so great, and now I’m a believer. I think that it is possible (as in the case of blogger “Mama Natural” Genevieve) that a woman doesn’t always need the nourishment from her placenta in which case it may be better not to consume it, but I definitely love the idea of having the option available. I’m about 6 months too late in learning about this (my son was born in August) but I will definitely be keeping all of this in mind for any future births : ) Thanks for this information!

  5. I never thought about it and I am far, far away from having children, but once I get there I’ll definitely consider it! The only birth I ever witnessed was when our cat was pregnant with two babies – and she ate everything “else” that came out of her when she gave birth. It provided her with the nutrients she needed to take care of three baby kittens! Why shouldnt that work for humans as well?

    Charlotte | 02.27.2014 | Reply
    • Isn’t it amazing how animals instinctively know how to keep themselves healthy? Good point, Charlotte!

      The Chalkboard | 02.27.2014 | Reply
  6. Here’s the thing – the studies supporting this are few and far between. The few published in medical journals are 50 – 100 years old. The rest are published by anthropologists studying the phenomenon, not the results. And their findings are based self reporting not held to any sort of rigorous scientific standards.

    There’s never been a double-blind study conducted by medical researchers of any scale on the benefits of eating the placenta. The evidence – if you can call it that – is entirely anecdotal. I know the burden of proof here is depressingly low – and the effects of most of these superfoods and alternative food choices are largely measured by the immeasurable – mood, energy, aura – etc. But this is something else. The anecdotes here, the before and after, are mothers comparing one childbirth to the other. These aren’t events that happen is close succession. They’re trying to remember their mood and energy and hair loss or whatever from childbirth to the other. With years inbetween. In those interveining years there are so many other factors that could contribute to one childbirth to the other. Not the least being, that they’ve done it before. Its no longer their first time. They know what to expect when they’re expecting. And you gotta figure, if a mother goes to the extent of hiring a doula and is open to eating the fleshy sack that expel after the baby – chances are they’ve been eating a tremendous amount of vegetables, taking supplements like crazy, and are in general taking excellent care of themselves. Less midnight pints of hagen daaz, and more wheatgrass implants. And they’ve got more control. Of the process, of the setting, of their preparations. They’ve often giving at home and recovering there. Oh, and they happen to eat the placenta. Which thing do you think has more of an effect on their mood, energy and other various feel good undefineables? The months of preparation, diet, experience and planning? Or consuming the fleshy sack that gets expelled after the baby pops out?

    And then you have to take a look at what they’re doing to these placentas. Steaming them, dehydrating them, grinding them up and putting them into pills. That then get broken down by the acids and enzymes in the stomach. What do you think happens to cortisol and oxytocin and estrogen when you cook it, dry it and eat it? Heat denatures proteins and amino acids – it removes their effectiveness. It breaks down opiods and steroids and lipids and all that happy horseshit. There’s a reason why they sterilize things in a hospital setting using heat. It works. What possible active ingredients could a placenta that’s been through all that and stuffed into pills still have?

    There’s a whole big cynical industry that has sprung up around childbirth – cribs and strollers and diets and doulas and baby showers and milk pumps and bottle warmers and diapers and classes and supplements and books and toys and everything. It’s hugely profitable. There’s a lot of people that stand to make money by making women afraid that they’ll hurt themselves and they baby if they don’t do everything right and everything perfect. And then they charge for the solution.

    The few evidence based studies on the effects of eating the placenta have been done on rats. Rats, like many animals, eat their placenta. Animals aren’t picky about where they get their protein. Which is why rats eat carcasses, garbage, and feces. That placenta is valuable food energy that they can’t just leave lying around. Which is why in times of stress or low food supply, rats also sometimes eat their newborns after birth. Maybe rats aren’t the best source of information about the benefits of eating the placenta.

    Thomas | 03.05.2014 | Reply

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