Amazing facts about placentas

What is the placenta?

The placenta is an amazing organ. It is attached to the lining of the womb during pregnancy and is crucial for the development of your unborn child.

Every single minute one pint of blood is pumped through it to the uterus. The baby’s blood and mother’s blood never mix but pass through separate arteries in the placenta. If they did mix, the mother’s blood would produce antibodies as a defence against the baby’s blood.

This multi-functional organ joins to your baby via the umbilical cord. It acts as your baby’s:

  • Lungs – supplying oxygen
  • Kidneys – filtering out waste
  • Gastrointestinal & immune systems – delivering nutrients and antibodies

It also produces important hormones throughout your pregnancy.

If you have identical twins, they may both share one placenta or there may be one placenta for each baby. If the fertilised egg splits after the placenta has been formed, they will share a placenta (each with their own umbilical cord). Or if the egg splits before the placenta has formed, two separate placentas will develop.

After your baby is born, further contractions help to push the placenta out (sometimes called the afterbirth).

This incredible multi-purpose organ is the only organ that disposes of itself when it’s no longer needed.

What is placentophagy?

Placentophagy means eating the placenta. It has been practised in many cultures for thousands of years. It is currently going through a revival in our modern Western world.

Remember that the benefits of eating the placenta have not been clinically proven and are from anecdotal evidence.

However it is interesting that most mammals do eat their placenta after giving birth – it is thought they do this instinctively as a source of valuable nutrients and vitamins.

Some mothers cook the placenta into foods like lasagne or pizza or even smoothies! If you are thinking about eating the placenta it is vitally important is that you treat it like any other meat product and are careful with storage and cooking.

What are the health benefits?

Many people think that eating the placenta after birth can give the mother many health benefits which boost postnatal recovery including:

  • Replenishing iron stores
  • Releasing oxytocin (this helps the uterus return to normal size)
  • Increasing CRH (a stress-reducing hormone)
  • Reducing postpartum bleeding
  • Increasing milk supply and energy
  • Reducing ‘baby blues’

What is placental encapsulation?

Placental encapsulation means the practice of eating the placenta after it has been processed into pill form. The method of processing involves steaming, drying, grinding and then putting into capsule form and ingested as pills. You can see how it’s done on the babycenter website.


There are a growing number of placenta encapsulation specialists. Take a look at the links below if you’d like to find out more.

Would you, or have you, eaten your placenta? We’d love to hear about your experiences, do let us know.