I came across an interesting tale about the connectedness between the placenta and the person it nourished in the womb in a book called, Placenta: The Gift of Life by Cornelia Enning (available at www.midwiferytoday.com). It's a wonderful book full of information and history of placenta uses.
In America, most people view the placenta as just messy after birth that needs to be discarded. However a look at history reveals that, traditionally, the placenta has been honored in many cultures. The placenta is often treated respectfully and is used in some sort of ritual. Many cultures believe that the way a placenta is treated after the birth will some how effect the child's life - for good or for bad. Although most mammals consume their placenta, history shows that traditional cultures usually preform a burial for the placenta. Here is a look at a few of the cultural beliefs surrounding the placenta:
Lotus birth is the practice of allowing the placenta and umbilical cord to stay attached until it naturally detaches, usually about 2-3 days after birth. After a baby is born, the umbilical cord continues to pulse blood to the baby if left attached. Cord blood contains many beneficial properties including stem cells, red and white blood cells (including cancer fighting T-cells) that help prevent and fight infection and supply extra nutrients and oxygen to a new baby. Babies who have delayed cord clamping have a 32% larger blood volumeand higher reserves of iron than infants who have their cords clamped immediately. Normal hospital protocol is to immediately clamp and cut the umbilical cord. However, there have been numerous studies done to show that immediate cord clamping is simply not necessary.
"You're suggesting I do WHAT with my placenta!?!?"
What is placentophagy? Placentophagy is defined as the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young. People are often shocked at the mention of ingesting your own placenta but did you know that most mammals participate in the act of placentophagy?
The most common single nutrient deficiency today is iron deficiency. Conventionally, the risk of iron deficiency is thought to be lowest right after child birth. However recent research has shown that the prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia is growing, especially among low income women. The standard American diet is insufficient to meet the iron needs of pregnant women. If left unsupplemented, most women are at risk of developing iron deficiency during pregnancy.
These days it's difficult to sort through all the research about health and diet without becoming overwhelmed and down right confused! So many people seem to know what diet is best and they often contradict other expert dietitians. This is the reason that I love studying traditional foods. Scientific research is always changing and evolving the more we learn about food and the human body but the intuitive knowledge of our ancestors is a solid foundation that we can build off of and will remain reliable.