Bundle Of Edible Joy: Why New Moms Are Bringing Their Placentas Home

Ground Placenta (danoxster/flickr)

Ground Placenta (danoxster/flickr)

By Kira Kim
Guest contributor

I recently got an email with the subject line: “Placenta.”

I work with a lot of pregnant women and new mothers, so this particular tag didn’t faze me. But the note wasn’t about a client; it was about a new law in Oregon that allows mothers to take their placentas home from the hospital after childbirth.

Some hospitals already allowed this practice, but it was technically against Oregon’s law prohibiting medical facilities from releasing medical waste, reports The Oregonian.

Amanda Englund of Placenta Power in Portland told me in an email that momentum is “building” for mothers to take their placentas home with them for therapeutic use. “I have seen the number of clients I serve double every year. More folks are learning about it through media sources and more mothers are sharing their experiences about how positive the effects have been on their recovery. The new law cements…this growing trend.” (Want more proof? Kim Kardashian is considering it. And mean “Glee” cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester took her placenta home.)

OK, so now it’s legal: power to the placenta in Oregon.

But why, you may ask, would anyone want to take home their placenta in the first place?

The answer is broad: sometimes it’s a cultural thing, part of a long tradition, and sometimes it’s extremely intimate and health-related.

A 2013 survey published in the journal Ecology, Food and Nutrition by anthropologists at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada asked 189 women who ate their placentas after birth (a practice known as placentophagy) “why they did it, how they preferred to have the placenta prepared, and if they would do it again. (An interesting side note on demographics: in this study, the majority of women who ate their placentas were “American, Caucasian, married, middle class, college-educated and were more likely to give birth at home.”)

Researchers report that the top three positive effects of placenta consumption, according to participants, were:

•Improved mood
•Increased energy
•Improved lactation

(For the record, the top three negative side effects of placentophagy were: “Unpleasant burping, headaches, unappealing taste or smell.”)

I was first introduced to placentophagy while living in China. A Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner wrote me a prescription after I miscarried to balance my qi. As a Westerner I looked at him with a mix of sarcasm and confusion. He then explained that the medicine was actually placenta, dried, ground and taken in pill form. (This is called encapsulation — more later.)

I was not convinced about taking someone else’s placenta, but he had me interested. Could my own placenta from future pregnancies be used for my benefit? It was then that I learned about the art of placentophagy and began to learn the ins and outs of this ancient practice, as well as it’s benefits.

Upon returning to the U.S., I was surprised that so many American women were open to the practice. For the past two years, I’ve helped more than 100 mothers through this process. Continue reading

What If Autism Risk Could be Diagnosed At Birth?

(Illustration: Patrick Lynch, Yale University)

(Illustration: Patrick Lynch, Yale University)

By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

In what might ultimately be a game-changer for managing and treating autism, Yale researchers report that they can now identify kids at risk for autism right after birth — instead of waiting until they’re diagnosed at age 3 or 4 — by examining their mother’s placenta.

Harvey Kliman, M.D., a research scientist in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, says he is able to make such a determination by looking for abnormal folding in the newborn’s placenta – the organ that feeds the baby during pregnancy. Kliman’s study, based on examining 217 placenta samples, is out today in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

By finding these children early, the hope is that they can begin aggressive therapy that will compensate for any behavioral, social or communications difficulties they would otherwise have had.

“Now we have something that can flag children at birth,” says Kliman, a placenta expert and lead author of the study.

A Child With Faulty Folding

Chris Mann Sullivan is a believer.

Sullivan, a longtime autism behavioral therapist, sent her newborn daughter Dania’s placenta to Kliman three years ago because she thought she might recommend the analysis to her clients and wanted to try it herself.

Kayla and Dania Sullivan (Photo: Chris Mann Sullivan)

Dania Sullivan, at right, was flagged at birth for being at risk for autism. Her older sister Kayla does not have the condition. (Photo: Chris Mann Sullivan)

To her shock and horror, Kliman saw evidence of this faulty folding in Dania’s placenta.

Once she recovered from her surprise, Sullivan began to try the therapies she knew so well on her own child, adapting them for Dania’s young age. Sullivan, of Norman, NC, describes her approach as intensive, “really, really good parenting.” Instead of letting tiny problems resolve themselves, she addressed them aggressively.

As a baby, when Dania, would only look and roll in one direction, Sullivan started encouraging her to use the other arm.
When the child didn’t intuitively understand facial expressions, Sullivan spent hours showing her pictures of familiar people smiling. And when Dania, who had asthma, began getting sick a lot and couldn’t seem to bounce back, Sullivan started giving her preventive nebulizer treatments every time she came in from playing outside.

Last summer, when Dania, now 3, didn’t want to stay in a wet bathing suit, her mother quickly changed it – and then regretted it when Dania’s reaction escalated into a fear of anything wet.

“You would have thought the world would have ended the first time we did not put on a dry bathing suit,” said Sullivan. But now Dania is over her aversion. “We pushed through it. Pushing through it with little kids is a lot different than pushing through with an older child.”

And that’s why it’s so important for parents to know that their child may need extra help at the very beginning of life, rather than waiting for counterproductive patterns to get established, Continue reading