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Friday, May 27, 2011

Should we be eating our placenta?

Ok , eeww gross.  I know.  That almost seems over the top.  So why am I writing about it?  Because of a discussion with one midwife about post-partum hemmorrage.  Here it is with her own words.

"I've been attending births for 10 years...I've seen some pretty major hemorrages...I use herbs if the bleeding is a little more than I like, but not crazy much, and sometime it seems to just slow down with some fundal massage, etc. If the bleeding is really excessive, I'll give herbs (but find that they rarely are enough to stop a major bleed), and then I've always been trained to give Pit IM.  Cytotec rectally tends to work even better in my experience (anywhere from 100mcg-800mcg inserted all at once..

But... placenta is AMAZING! Yes, most of my clients are really mainstream, non-earthy/hippie type people. They wouldn't THINK of eating some raw placenta, unless they understand how it their life in a severe hemorrhage. 

I'd heard about placenta for a hemorrhage and physiologically it all made sense, but I was still thinking, "Yuck! My clients won't do that unless they live on a desert island and that's the only option!"
 That's what I thought til the day 5 years ago when I was all alone caring for a sweet little Mennonite lady... the client lost quite a bit of blood with the placenta. Once that was out (complete), she just kept bleeding...I did have 200mcg of Cyctotec with me, so I gave that to her rectally and it stopped her bleeding for about 20 min. Then it re-started, and in spite of my best efforts and herbs and uterine compression and emptying her bladder she just kept bleeding. .. (I was on the phone with my preceptor) my preceptor said, "I bet she's not going to want to try this, but you could see if she wants to eat some placenta just in case it does the trick...."

I sighed. No, she DEFINITELY would NOT be the placenta-eating type. I hated to even mention it. But I did. " have an idea that might POSSIBLY work to stop the bleeding. We can try that first. It would be to eat a bit of your placenta." 
Her eyes got big and then she said emphatically, "Well, if you think it might stop the bleeding" (Her bleeding was just a constant trickle - never ending.)
I explained briefly how it's loaded with hormones and how scientists have found that it contains ounce for ounce, 70 times the potency of the hemorrhage drug, Methergine. 
Her husband begged her to do it, but said it sounded too gross and he couldn't watch. I wasn't sure how to give it to her - and fast, but I sliced off a piece about the size of 2 lima beans; put it between 2 crackers and told her to chew it up and gulp it down with a glass of water. She did  and remarked, "That wasn't bad at all! I didn't taste anything except the mouthful of dry cracker!" 
A minute later, I dabbed her perineum with a piece of gauze. No new bleeding. I waited. No bleeding. I figured it was pooling inside and would come out when she moved. She moved. No bleeding....We put on a clean pad and she went back to bed. I stayed for a few hours. the pad never got any blood on it. I went home and called her the next morning to see how her bleeding was. 
"None," she said. I'm still wearing that pad you put on me and it still looks as clean as when you first put it on." 
Eventually her lochia resumed but always remained light. I wondered if it was just a freak thing or if placenta was a wonder drug. 

Well, I've since tried it for a total of 9 times on severe hemorrhages
7 of those times it's worked within 30 seconds-2 minutes of ingestion - and much better than drugs. (In some of these cases, I'd been trying Pit, Cyto, bi-manual compression, etc for a long time and they weren't working.)
I've given anywhere from 1/2 tsp sized piece - a tablespoon sized piece. They've always chewed it up and swallowed it. We've usually rinsed it off pretty well so it wasn't bloody. 

2 times I gave it for a severe hemorrhage and it didn't seem to do anything. In both of those cases, I was giving the drugs for hemorrhage, too, and nothing was working.

Anyway, I'm pretty sold on it. I don't trust in it (like anything else) as the magic solution for every hemorrhage, but I definitely consider it just as potent/helpful as Pitocin/Cyto/Methergine. 
I mention it to most of my clients prenatally when we talk through what I would do if they were bleeding too much. I usually begin the placenta talk with, "You're gonna think this is really gross, just like I did when I first heard about it, but I've seen it save the day too many times not to put it out there for you as a possible option if you wanted to try it." 

Now, my biggest fear is having a torrential hemorrhage BEFORE the placenta and having to go in after the placenta! "-Mary

Now I can almost guarentee that no ob is going to agree with this.  In fact, the reply would be very similar to this one:

"In fact, says Dr Blott, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, there's no medical justification at all.
"Animals eat their placenta to get nutrition - but when people are already well-nourished, there is no benefit, there is no reason to do it," she says."

The only problem with that statement...there is no research that looks at what effect the placenta has on post partum hemorrhage.  So, we don't know...except from stories of women who have actually tired it.  I'm not sure how many women are willing to be test subjects though:)  It would also be difficult to design a study around that.  

Then the question arises:  so why in the world would we do that, when we have modern medicine.

I can come up with a few reasons...

1)much less expensive

2)it may actually work better

3)it doesn't carry the side effects that our modern medications have

Is that enough to convince me to try it?  I'm not sure.  I would probably try the drug route first, and then try the placenta if nothing else worked.  At least until more data came out surrounding the eating of the placenta.  Or maybe I would try the placenta first and then the drugs.  I don't know.  I'm not sure I could stomach it:)  

For another great article on the uses of the placenta, check out this site....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I could stomach it. I eat sushi. And I was just thinking, why not use it wrapped in rice with that sea weed paper or whatever. Dip it in soy sauce and it's no more disgusting than raw fish. But I've lately been thinking a lot about things that lots people think are weird or strange or something. So it's not as unusual as it is to many.

Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.