The talk was all about placentas at our last pregnancy group at The Birth House. This incredible life sustaining organ acts as a transport system between mother and baby and is responsible for nutrition, respiration, excretion and hormone production. At full term pregnancy 500-800mls of blood per minute is going through the placenta on the maternal side. We also found out how important maternal nutrition is, both preconception and during pregnancy, in nourishing and growing a healthy placenta that will work at peak function. Wharton’s jelly is the substance in the umbilical cord that surrounds the three blood vessels and protects against compression, which can occur during labour and birth. To feed the placenta and grow a good layer of
Wharton’s jelly we need to feed the mother, with plenty of nutrient dense food. See Weston A Price foundation dietary recommendations for pregnancy for more information.
We also discussed how we can birth our placentas, often referred to as the third stage of labour. We talked about how 1/3 of a baby’s blood supply is in the cord and placenta at birth and that by avoiding premature clamping and allowing the cord to continue to pulsate we are ensuring that the baby receives their full quota of blood including all those wonderful stem cells. We learnt that a woman is still in labour until her placenta is birthed and thus it is very important to maintain an environment conducive to optimal release of the hormone oxytocin, so think quiet, private, warm, skin-to-skin contact with baby, no bright lights, no questions, no strangers, no interruptions or separation from her baby. By maintaining this environment we can minimise the risk of the mum bleeding heavily after birth.
It’s not uncommon that we hear parents say that their baby’s cord was clamped and cut early because the baby needed resuscitation. For a more in-depth look at resuscitation of the newborn without cutting the cord check out MidwifeThinking blog, where you can also view some great videos.
Placentas have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. There was once a time that hospitals used to sell placentas to cosmetic companies to make creams!
Some families choose to continue the circle of life by burying their baby’s placenta and planting a tree on top. As the baby grows up they will be able to see their special tree grow too, nourished by their placenta.
Lotus birth is another option that some families choose, where the umbilical cord is not clamped or cut, rather is left attached to the baby until it detaches naturally, usually 3-7 days later. Check out Sarah Buckley’s article on lotus birth.
For those of you who enjoy making art, perhaps you would like to make some placenta prints. The amazing network of blood vessels on the baby’s side of the placenta create some beautiful patterns reminiscent of the Tree of Life.
We were also privileged to have Kirrah, doula and placenta encapsulation specialist, share her knowledge about placentophagy, or the act of consuming placenta! A more palatable way to do this is with placenta encapsulation, where your baby’s placenta is steamed, slowly dehydrated, powdered, and then encapsulated. Placentas are rich in nutrients and hormones which if consumed, like most mammals do, is thought to assist in the woman’s transition to motherhood. Check out Kirrah’s website for more information on placenta encapsulation.
Aren’t placentas just amazing?