- Supplying the baby with adequate nutrition. Mom's food is broken down into proteins and other nutrients, which are filtered through the placenta. In fact, every minute during pregnancy, one point of blood is pumping into the uterus, exchanging nutrients with the placenta.
- Filtering out toxins, mich lieg the kidneys, and moving beneficial substances between mama and baby via their separate blood systems.
- Acting like lungs, allowing transfer of oxygen to the baby and carbon dioxide away.
- Eliminating waste from baby (where it passes into mother's circulation and is eliminated via urination or exhalation)
- Keeping mother and baby's blood separate
- Protecting baby from infection (nearly all bacterial infections, but not all viral infections)
- Producing hormones, such as lactogen, estrogen and progesterone, which (among other things) help to prepare mom's body for pregnancy and prevent uterine contractions from coming too soon.
The placenta is embedded in the uterus and connects to your baby via the umbilical cord. Identical twins often share a placenta and fraternal twins each have their own, although they may fuse into one large organ. When birthed, the placenta is round, flat, and about one inch thick. The mama’s side is rough and lobular and the baby’s side is smooth, shiny, and often resembles a tree (often called the tree of life).
Think about all the changes you have made in pregnancy to eliminate dietary and environmental toxins, eat optimally, and take extra good care of your body, mind and spirit. Have you ever treated your body with greater care? Your placenta is a direct reflection of all the good you have been doing for your body and your baby throughout your pregnancy. And it is ready to give back to you after your baby is born.
Studies show the placenta is extremely nutrient rich—it is high in iron, protein, vitamins and minerals (including vitamin B6), and your own natural hormones. This amazing self-produced and personalized medicine:
Relieves pain. One study found that substances in the placenta provide pain relief and actually block pain receptors in the brain
Helps stop bleeding
Speeds uterine healing and recovery from childbirth
Replaces the iron and blood cells lost in the birth process. The placenta contains high levels of bio-available iron, which is often low in pregnancy and further depleted through childbirth (particularly with excessive bleeding). Not only does the extra iron in the placenta help restore the body, it can also prevent postpartum depression. Studies have linked low iron to fatigue, low energy and a higher risk of postpartum depression.
Ensures an abundant milk supply. One study of 210 women found that 86% of those that ingested their placenta experienced a clear increase in milk production.
Boosts mood and evens out emotional swings common in postpartum. In the late 90s researchers discovered the hormonal factors that contribute to postpartum depression, particularly a dramatic drop in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).
The placenta is high in CRH and can help supplement this hormone to greatly ease the transition for new mamas
Gives new mamas a boost in hormones. Medical studies have found that placenta ingestion can modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones in animals.
The placenta produces and houses hormones during pregnancy, most of which are present in the placenta at birth. In the week following birth, hormone levels in mamas’ bodies go from three times higher than normal to lower than normal. This can have a huge effect on the body and emotions, significantly affecting a woman until her body returns to equilibrium, which can take some time. Consuming the placenta replenishes the body with some of these hormones to gently guide mama back to her pre-pregnancy hormonal state, effectively reducing many unwanted symptoms.
The placenta contains:
- Oxytocin: the “love” hormone, which is thought to relieve pain, enhance mama-baby bonding, and help return the uterus to its non-pregnant state
- TSH: (thyroid stimulating hormone) boosts energy and helps the body recover from stressful events (e.g. childbirth)
- Interferon: protects against infection and stimulates the immune system
- Gammaglobulin: immune booster that helps protect against postpartum infections
- Urokinase Inhibiting Factor & Factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing
- Prostaglandins: stimulates the uterus’s return to non-pregnant state, acts as an anti-inflammatory
- Prolactin: promotes lactation
- CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone): helps combat postpartum depression (which is associated with low levels of CRH postpartum)
- Cortisone: combats stress and unlocks stores of energy
- Hemoglobin: replenishes iron deficiency and anemia
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the placenta may offer additional benefits, including:
- Helping to build baby’s immune system
- Healing assistance after any trauma and major life transition
- Weaning from breast feeding
- Healing broken bones
- Regulating hormones during menopause
- Easing symptoms of PMS
- Easing of colic and digestive complaints in baby