The Sacred Placenta
The placenta is making a profound come back as we again, begin to realize the nature of things and ancient wisdom becomes reborn. Across the globe the rituals and ceremonies are many. I intuited with my first 2 pregnancies that the placenta was special and powerful but did not know enough at the time to create a lovely ceremony with them. I did however return them to the Earth. Had I known I would still be living where I am, I might have planted some trees’s over them. Since my first 2 were hospital births, depending on the circumstances, i wouldn’t personally recommend eating the placenta. Depending on the birth process itself – whether drugs were used that would contaminate the placenta and the bacteria that could be picked up in a hospital. It seems to me, many things follow a natural course – and it begins with a birth at home!
With my third baby Luca, we did a ceremony for him and his placenta on his first birthday & for my 4th baby and unassisted home birth-Rowan- I attempted a ‘full lotus’ birth but cut the cord 2 days in (his cord was super short! and very hard to maneuver). I also naturally allowed the placenta to dry for encapsulation. Some people choose one or the other, I wanted BOTH. I felt that allowing it to dry naturally (which takes WAY more time – 2weeks) it would preserve the delicate stem cells and hormones much better then speeding the process with heat. Just like with herbs.
Here’s a good little article I found and some rituals from around the world before I share my own ceremonies.
The placenta is an amazing organ that develops the moment that the egg enters the womb, growing at the place of entrance by the sperm. It is a large, meaty thing that when examined resembles a tree of life. Ancient cultures have marveled at the blood wisdom most inherent in the afterbirth of a woman. Most often, the placenta would be buried or eaten. Significant ritual would revolve around the entire birth ceremony and the mother would be revered as sacred.
“Leaving the cord attached to baby until it naturally falls off offers the baby and the family a rare opportunity to maintain a sacred space of patience and non-violence.” [i]
– Robin Lim
In our Western society, it is prevalent to sever the umbilical cord immediately upon birth of the baby. Many women and doctors alike do not know any reason to do it otherwise.
As I learned in my pregnancy, there are a vast number of important reasons to keep the cord intact for at least 90 seconds. “Why not keep it in tact for 15-20 minutes,” Says Gloria Lemay, midwife extraordinaire, “I’ve seen cords that are still pulsing for up to 30 minutes.” [ii] Many others ask, why detach the cord at all?
Robin Lim, CNN Hero of the Year 2011, refers to the placenta, cord, baby trio as the Holy Trinity, the root, stem and fruit. Leaving the cord intact until the placenta is born is considered a lotus birth by popular definition. Waiting for the cord to fall off naturally on it’s own, which can take 3-7 days, is considered a full lotus birth.
Medical Research on Optimal Cord Clamping
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded
“Delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in full-term neonates for a minimum of 2 minutes following birth is beneficial to the newborn, extending into infancy.” [iii]
In another article from the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, the abstract states, “Immediate clamping of the umbilical cord can reduce the red blood cells an infant receives at birth by more than 50%, resulting in potential short-term and long-term neonatal problems.” [iv]
The British Medical Journal indicates that, “Cord clamping should be delayed for at least three minutes for optimal placental transfusion, regardless of fetal weight.” [v]
The World Health Organization states, “there is growing evidence that delayed cord clamping is beneficial and can improve the iron status for up to six months after birth. This may be particularly relevant or infants living in low-resource settings with less access to iron-rich foods.” [vi]
It is clear that the cutting of the cord be delayed for at least 2-3 minutes. Now, we will look at the benefits of a full lotus birth, or leaving the cord and placenta attached until they fall off naturally.
Laying in Bed with my Placenta
Our society makes it hard for women to take time after birth to recover. In other cultures across the world, it is common for a woman to stay off her feet and in bed for up to 40 days. Compare this to women in America going back to work after only a couple of weeks.
Leaving the cord intact creates a necessary ‘laying-in’ period where the mother and baby relax in a bubble of safety and coziness. Birth is a major and often, difficult transition for all parties involved. Respecting the space of mother and baby, and the mother’s need to remain at ease is so important. Keeping the cord intact is one way to encourage this.
Peace One Placenta at a Time
“It is time for babies to be born in wholeness and stay whole. It’s time to practice birthing techniques that support the innate radiance of our babies and protect their innate Oneness. Lotus Birth is a choice, a gift from parents who recognize its significance.” – Sunni Karll, author of Sacred Birthing [vii]
The main reason for a full lotus birth is the companionship and closure that is offered. The placenta serves as a guardian and nourishes the baby. It is the only organ which your body grows as an adult and its primary function is to protect and serve the baby as it grows inside of you.
Often times, as the baby is born and then severed from her closest companion, a strong sense of loss and panic ensues. Especially in a hospital setting where the mother and child are often separated for ‘procedures’. Imagine yourself, exhausted from a major transition from cozy, comfortable inside mom with your guardian placenta, you burst forth into the cold unknown and immediately do not hear mom’s heart beat. You are quickly forced to breathe the air as your cord is severed and your placental friend has disappeared. No wonder new born babies are always perceived as screaming. It does not have to be this way.
A peaceful birth creates a peaceful, trusting adult. Birth trauma causes adult trauma. Many who have suffered anxiety, lack of trust and other serious problems have realized that many of these things come from a traumatic birth experience. There is no one to blame, only a lack of information to women and doctor’s alike. We need to begin birthing a peaceful generation that preserves the Earth by sharing this important and often times ancient knowledge.
Rituals around the World
My beautiful African mother, Tembakazi Magadla, who has been my second mum through out my whole life, shared with me some tribal truth about how the Xhosa prepare the placenta ritual. As soon as the mother has given birth to her child, the placenta is then mixed up into the soil where she has given birth, enriching and infusing the soil. The baby’s hair is then cut and no men are allowed near the birthing space for the first seven days.
The Tanala people of Madagascar observe strict silence throughout the labour and birth and as the placenta is being delivered. When the placenta comes, everyone present claps and shouts “Vita! Vita!” – meaning ‘finished’.
The Baganda of Uganda believe that the placenta is actually a second child. Not only is it the child’s double, but the placenta also has its own spirit that resides in the umbilical cord. The portion of the cord attached to the baby must be carefully preserved to ensure the good health of the child. If the child is of royal blood, the placenta itself is ritually preserved and carried in processions by a high-ranking officer. This custom is remarkably similar to that of the Egyptians, although the Egyptians carried the placenta figuratively.
In Mali, it is thought that the placenta can affect the baby’s mood or even make the baby ill. The placenta is washed, dried, placed in a basket and buried by the father.
A belief held by many Arabs is the future fertility of a woman is connected to the disposition of the placenta. Should something unpleasant happen to it the woman might be rendered sterile.
In Sudan the placenta is considered to be the infant’s ‘spirit double’ and can be buried in a place that represents the parents’ hopes for their child.
In Yemen the placenta is placed on the family’s roof for the birds to eat, in the hope that it will guarantee the love between the parents.
In Malaysia the placenta is seen as the child’s older sibling and thought that the two are reunited at death. The midwife carefully washes the placenta, cord and membranes and wraps them in a white cloth to be buried.
In Nepal, the placenta is given the name ‘bucha-co-satthi’ – meaning ‘baby’s friend’.
In China, the placenta is considered a powerful medicine. It is dried and made into a powder, placed into capsules so that the woman can take it at various times in her life, including menopause.
In Korea the placenta is often burned and the ashes kept. During periods of illness the ashen powder is given in a liquid to help heal the child.
Among the Hmong culture, the word for placenta can be translated as “jacket,” as it’s considered an infant’s first and finest clothing. The Hmong bury the placenta outside as they believe that after death, the soul must journey back through the past until it reaches the burial place of the placenta and await rebirth.
In Cambodia, the placenta is carefully wrapped in a banana tree leaf, placed beside the newborn baby for three days and then buried.
In Thai culture the placenta is often salted and placed in an earthen jar. On a day deemed auspicious for burying this clay pot, a site is prepared and the placenta is laid to rest. The jar is buried under a tree that corresponds to the symbol of the Asian year of the child’s birth and depending on what month the child was born dictates which bearing the pot faces.
In some regions of South America the placenta is burned after birth to neutralize it and planted in the ground to protect it from evil spirits.
For Navajo Indians, it is customary to bury a child’s placenta within the sacred four corners of the tribe’s reservation as a binder to ancestral land and people. The Navajos also bury objects with it to signify the profession they hope the child will pursue.
In Hawaii the placenta is brought home and washed, then buried following a religious ritual with a tree planted on it. It is believed this binds the child to his or her homeland. The “iewe” (placenta) of the newborn child is sacred and must be handled in a sacred manner in order to provide for the physical health of the child.
The indigenous Bolivian Aymara and Quecha people believe the placenta has its own spirit. It is to be washed and buried by the husband in a secret and shady place. If this ritual is not performed correctly, they believe, the mother or baby may become very sick or even die.
The commercial use of “placenta extract” found in some cosmetics, such as facial cream, is sold in France. In 1994, Britain banned the practice of collecting placentas in hospitals from unsuspecting mothers, after it was learned that 360 tons of it were annually being bought and shipped by French pharmaceutical firms. They used it to make a protein, albumin, for burns and to make enzymes to treat rare genetic disorders.
New Zealand Maori gift the Placenta or Whenua as a gift to Papa Tua Nuku or Mother Earth. In Maori, the word for land and placenta are the same – whenua, and illustrates the connection between them and it is usually planted with a tree on family land.
Some Aboriginal tribes bury the placenta either under the tree where they birthed or under an ant pit for the green ants. Many believe that when the green ants eat the placenta no more babies will come or at least not for a while.
In Samoa the placenta must be totally burned or buried so it will not be found by evil spirits. Burying or burning it at home also ensures the child will remain close to home as it moves through life. If buried under a fruit tree, the placenta provides nutrition for the tree that in turn will provide years of nutrition for the child.
The Tree of Life
Luca’s 1st Birthday Ceremony
Some people do gifts & birthday cakes!
We offered our blessings & returned the ‘original’ birthday cake back to the Earth ♥ because we are like that.
Placenta in german literally translates as Mother Cake (‘Mutter Kuchen’). So now you know where the birthday cake came from, in case you didn’t know :♥:
Everyone offer’s Tobacco
We ARE done
I really loved celebrating Luca’s first birthday this way. It felt good and meaningful. You have to realize though that every child bring a new opportunity for learning and growth.
Rowan’s Half Lotus Birth & Placenta Encapsulation
After the Birth
I made my way to my rocking recliner chair and rode a few intense waves out sitting there.
I got Mike to fetch some of the chux pads we had and some towels and roughly 20 minutes after Rowan’s birth the placenta was birthed.
It was messy and bloody and fell to the floor. The way of Nature.
Ah! What a relief.
I took my shepard’s purse tincture and some homeopathic arnica.
Shortly after I had to go pee and some good gushes of blood and clots come out. I felt ok and not nearly as drained and soar as with my 2 births. I was a bit dizzy so I ate a banana, some eggs and had some raspberry leaf tea. I also cut a chunk of placenta and ate it whole.
Later on I ate another chunk.
I really believe in the importance more than ever of ‘drinking in’ your baby. That glorious newborn smell that changes over the coming days and only gets sweeter. I could really feel in my own body, how profoundly effective that smell was. I could feel it affecting me deeply. I’m sure all basis for the effectiveness of aromatherapy through the olfactory system stems from observing mother’s and newborns! Ha ha.
Later on we weighed and measured him. He was over 8 lbs. 52 cm long and 35 cm head. He was born at 8:34 am and rode to Earth on Grandfather Sun, on November 29, 2013 a special day. A good friend of mine shared this same birthday. She passed away 10 years ago.
I was planning on doing a full lotus birth this time but it became very difficult to handle baby and his short drying cord! It felt he was also getting a bit annoyed, so after almost 2 days – I decided to cut the dry cord off.
I started processing the placenta to encapsulate. Because I wanted a lotus birth and encapsulate I chose to go a very natural method of drying which took 2 weeks for the placenta to dry. I covered the placenta with rosemary and a little Himalayan rock salt. I turned it every day and kept sprinkling more rosemary on it so it was always completely covered.
Once dry I blended it into a powder.
My daughter Lili helped me put the powdered placenta into capsules because it was very time consuming and I never had much time in between being needed by my little Sun.
This baby was the first to want to be constantly held.
The placenta benefits the new mother by supplying incredibly rich meaty iron, amino acids and essential fats which we believe is the perfect replenishment following the ordeal of birth.
Stem cells and growth factors in the placenta play a key role in healing the wound left inside the uterus after birth by the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. A mother will typically bleed for between 3 – 6 weeks after birth. This blood loss stems from where the placenta separated from the uterine wall. We have found however that mothers who consume their placenta after birth, particularly after consuming raw placenta in a smoothie or other, bleed significantly less e.g. usually much lighter bleeding for between just 5 – 10 days after giving birth.
The most important nutrients found in rich supply in the placenta include:
- Stem Cells and Growth Factors.
- Iron – essential for oxygen absorption in the cells.
- Vitamins B6 – aids in the making of antibodies.
- Vitamin E – for healing damaged skin cells.
- Oxytocin hormone – essential for facilitating birth and breastfeeding.
- Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) – responsible for reducing stress levels.
- Cytokines – Fibroblasts that trigger cell metabolism healing and replacing damaged cells and tissue.
I can definitely see why you might want to choose to hire someone to encapsulate for you ~ it was a lot of work at this particular time!
But I enjoyed the process and owning that experience.
Might as well do your own before you do anyone else’s!
Although I prepared so much tincture I didn’t end up using that much. The first 2-3 days were pretty uncomfortable and I took my tinctures and my homeopathic arnica and chamomile frequently. My newborn encouraged much rest by asking to be nursed frequently! I accepted.
After that the bleeding slowed and the after pains were pretty bearable! I healed very fast and if anything had a very minor tear.
Placenta prints are also getting pretty popular – I’ve seen some really beautifully painted ones. The one I made is very simple. I only had ONE go at it because that is all the paper I had on hand. The paint is birth blood! yup. So I got some little foot prints in there and once the cord was dried I spiraled it and dried it.
This was an amazing experience and a profound initiation into my own power and my ability to rely on myself completely, erasing all doubt from my mind. It was a dance between the seen and unseen aspects of life. Pregnancy and birth became a living ceremony and encapsulating the placenta and creating a piece of art afterwards a ritual.
I am so thankful I touched this part of my own being. I think this birth will leave me forever changed in a good way. I met my inner wild woman who roams freely through the wilderness, in touch with all her senses, her intuition, and her creatively wild spirit. May She continue to teach me. Aho.
Amost 1 year post partum and I still have a few magic pills left – I take them when I need that extra ooooomphfffff!