As I have posted before, when I was pregnant with Eilys I looked into Placenta encapsulation in order to aid with my breast milk production. After looking into it and almost buying all the stuff to do it ourselves we decided against it as it would prove to be way too faffy. This pregnancy I had another think about encapsulation but during one of my initial meetings with my midwife she mentioned consuming the placenta via a smoothie…
My first reaction to a placenta smoothie was “are you insane!? That sounds absolutely disgusting, no thank you” but Kelly sent me a few links about the health benefits and told me several anecdotes about her experiences with women having placenta smoothies. In my head, stupidly, I thought that the entire placenta was stuck in a blender and served to you in a tall glass with a straw like something that would be sold in the Hannibal Lecter cafe. Kelly explained that no, that was not the case and that each smoothie had a piece of placenta that was about the size of the tip of your thumb. She assured me that I wouldn’t be able to taste it either, bonus! Not that I have any idea what placenta tastes like. She said that she would prepare the placenta for me, she’d cut it up into bits and she would make me a smoothie before going on her merry way with the unused bits.
So that was the plan. To have a placenta smoothie after the baby was born. In the weeks before the birth I bought supplies. I had almond milk, soya milk, a freezer drawer full of frozen smoothie fruit bags, ice and yogurt. If I was going to be eating a raw organ then I would make sure it was jazzed up! I spoke to my new midwife, Lucy, about making smoothies and like Kelly she was really positive about it, incredibly knowledgeable and had made loads before.
After a beautiful and smooth birth of Evan, swiftly followed by a rather uncomfortable and annoying birth of my placenta it was smoothie o’clock. Dylan cut the cord, I got out of the pool and got checked over and then had a shower. Then I was sat in bed, cuddling Evan and chatting with my Mum. “Where’s Lucy?” said Mum
“She’s taken the placenta to make my smoothie” says me, all drunk on baby.
“WHAT!?!” shrieked Mum.
…ah, maybe I neglected to mention to her that I was going to whizz and drink the placenta. Oops. I did a short explanation of what I was doing and why but Mum really wasn’t very impressed and she said something about going to see what was going on and she went to the kitchen to talk to Lucy. Poor Lucy. My Mum is the absolute best but I think she is baffled by me at times and this was definitely on of those situations. I presume Lucy reassured my Mum and explained what was happening in a more coherent way (I am sure I sounded like a moronic loon, all baby drunk and labour knackered). Lucy must have said the right thing because they came up to give me the smoothie together.
I am sure that reading this you won’t believe me when I say this but I really couldn’t taste anything other than fruit. The smoothie itself was really nice! There was no weird afterbirth aftertaste or a hint of organ flavour that I couldn’t place. It just tasted like a smoothie. It was yummy and just what I needed after labour! Lucy said that there was enough smoothie left to have one the following day. She had also prepped enough placenta for me to make a few more. I froze these bits and did, with varying degrees of success, make a couple of smoothies with them before burning out the motor in my smoothie maker (a cheap jobby from the aldi sale which I returned for a refund, bonus!)
Lucy took a photo of my placenta for me and made the umbilical cord into a little heart. It looks quite gnarly and very bloody but it is an incredible thing. Not only did my body create a baby but it also created a whole new organ. My placenta kept Evan alive and kept him nourished throughout my pregnancy. It provides oxygen and nutrients to your baby and removes waste products from the baby’s blood. It is an amazing thing.
A placenta contains hormones like progesterone and oestrogen and is packed with nutrients all of which are beneficial for postpartum recovery. Advocates will tell you that consuming placenta in a smoothie after a birth or having it dried and encapsulated could help to boost milk production (many mother’s reporting their milk coming in on day 2 rather than day 3 to 5), it can improve mood; keeping away the baby blues and possibly postnatal depression, it helps to slow the initial blood loss after giving birth, it can decrease the intensity of the afterpains and can increase energy in new mummies.
Obviously it is very difficult to say whether or not having a placenta smoothie helped me at all. In regards to my milk supply, I have still had to supplement breastfeeds with formula. Evan is a bit of a milk monster! But we didn’t have weight loss that both Dylan and Eilys had after birth, in fact Evan having lost 7oz after 36hrs he was nearly back up to birth weight by day 5… result!
Both of my awesome midwives said that placenta smoothies would help improve my mood and increase energy after giving birth, in their experience. After having Evan I was dreading the day 3 weepy day, absolutely dreading it! I didn’t have this at all with Eilys but after Dylan it was horrendous and I presumed that any hormonal blip might bring an outpouring of grief for Eilys. But I was pleasantly surprised. I did feel a bit wobbly on day 3 but nothing major. I definitely felt like I had more energy after having Evan. The birth itself didn’t seem to wipe me out as much as the other 2 did. I didn’t feel like I was in that newborn haze as much as I did with previous births, I felt pretty much normal (well, as normal as I could feel)
I had read that some mothers reported that their blood loss after birth slowed quicker and lasted less time and that their uteruses contracted quicker and that their after pains weren’t as bad. Fair warning, I am about to massively over share (in a blog post about eating a placenta in a smoothie, ha!). After having Dylan I bled for about 7 weeks, obviously not loads but it was a long old process and the midwife said that my uterus was a little bit contracted at 14 days post partum and then it had fully contracted when I had my 6 week check. After Eilys I bled for a little over 2 weeks and my uterus was half contracted when my midwife discharged me at 16 days post partum. This time I stopped bleeding at about day 7 and my uterus was fully contracted by then too. I know that with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th etc pregnancies these things happen faster but still that is pretty impressive. However, the afterpains were a different matter entirely. Oh my days, the after pains!! To be totally honest I cannot remember the after pains from my previous 2 pregnancies, at all. But this time, shit the bed, they chuffing hurt. For 3 days, I was in agony on and off. So the placenta munching did not help with the after pains at all!
All in all I am pleased that I gave it a go. The smoothies themselves were really fruity and yummy and if nothing else they provided a good boost of vitamins and minerals from the fruit! I didn’t see any adverse effects and, after pains aside, everything postpartum went a lot smoother than before. My one bit of smoothie placenta advice to you would be TELL YOUR MUM before the birth as trying to explain eating the placenta to your mother after you have just pushed a 8lb+ baby out of your chuff is tricky!!
Thanks for reading