Eat My Placenta?! Yes, and with Thanks
The numerous benefits of consuming one’s placenta after childbirth (placentophagia) have been rightly popularized and publicized among the Real Birth movement for some years. Whether you encapsulate or freeze or eat placenta raw, the physical and mental health benefits are indisputable, and many mothers (myself included) testify and rejoice about the physical and emotional healing they experienced as a result of consuming placenta. The placenta contains hormones and nutrients that may mitigate postpartum depression, increase milk supply, hasten postpartum recovery, diminish postpartum anemia, help control postpartum bleeding, and contribute to mama/baby bonding.
But as a Bible-believing Christian, the concerns I most often hear are from fellow Christians. “That’s cannibalism!” they cry. I do not profess to have limitless insight and wisdom, nor do I proclaim to have all the answers. But I would like to share my perspective, to hopefully dispel this concern and false accusation of cannibalism.
Firstly, we should understand that true cannibalism is the taking of a human life to consume that human’s flesh. In the case of consuming a placenta, no life is being taken. The placenta is a wondrous temporary organ that the female body produces for the child-bearing year to nourish the growing baby she is creating within her body. Once the baby is born, the placenta, no longer needed, detaches itself…it dies a graceful death after it has served such a useful purpose. It is expelled from the body and is now a hormone- and nutrient-rich lump of tissue. No life has been taken, no living flesh has been sacrificed and no living flesh will be consumed.
It might come as a surprise to the naysayers to understand that they are regularly consuming “parts” of their own bodies daily. Through your blood supply, every cell in your body consumes nutrients…this sustainer of life flows through you every moment of every day…the myriad blood components, including plasma, electrolytes, hormones, cholesterol, etc, etc are being produced, used, recycled, created, consumed regularly to keep you alive. Additionally, during the wonderful process of autohphagy, your body consumes no longer functioning, unnecessary and/or damaged cells and tissue to clean up the system (this even includes scar tissue and old, jiggly stretched out flesh). Yes, during this process, your body is literally eating itself…and to your benefit!
And not to be cheeky, but for all those nail biters, hangnail nibblers and lip chewers out there, you are eating your own human flesh. Have you ever cut a finger and stuck it in your mouth to staunch the bleeding? You just drank your own blood. Have you ever cried so hard you had tears roll into your mouth? You drank your own bodily fluids. Have you ever had a cold with a runny nose and sucked in that snot? Again, you ate bodily fluid/cells/tissue. At its basest level, we are discussing the consumption of cells. Cells are the building blocks for everything in our bodies…fluids and tissue (including “flesh”). Eating the cells that we know as placenta, a no-longer living but nutritious and beneficial piece of discarded flesh, is not cannibalism and is no different from the bodily function of autophagy, the habit of nail biting, or inadvertent mucus swallowing.