Tag Archives: placenta

Can Birth Be a Spiritual Experience?

Pain, bloating, and nausea aside, birth can be a truly spiritual experience. For those who have witnessed the phenomenon, or been present in the precious moments after, the experience may rank in the holiest, most magical moments of their lives. Sure, for some it may include fear, anxiety, pain and adrenaline, but the cry of new life can usually dispel even the sharpest of concerns.

In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores the spiritual sides to birthing, from fertility rituals, to belly dancing, to placenta burial. With fertility rites and deities dating back to ancient times, reproduction has likely played a prominent role in religious traditions throughout human history.

Before the wisdom of midwives and modern science became the mainstream, pregnancy and birth were nothing short of miracles, explained only by the mystery of the universe. This same mystery made the sun rise, the rain fall, and the earth bear food to sustain life. But even knowing how the sperm fertilizes the egg, the fetus grows, and eventually the cervix dilates and the baby is born, does it change the magical quality of birth?

Harshitha...my angel..i love you...Many mothers, partners, midwives and other birth workers speak of the sacred atmosphere of the birthing room. For an unmedicated mother, the high levels of oxytocin and endorphins naturally secreted during labor can induce an almost ecstatic high (evolutionarily crafted, of course, to help her withstand the strain of contractions.) And for all in the room, regardless of medical intervention, witnessing a tiny human where previously there was only a big belly…well it’s something you just have to experience.

It is no wonder people have developed such elaborate rituals surrounding birth. Gotham describes some particularly interesting ones in the episode. Did you know belly dancing originated as a method for women to ease the pain of labor? That’s right, it wasn’t intended to be a sexy dance women do in front of men… Kind of puts things into perspective. And cultures around the world find fascinating uses for the placenta, or “afterbirth”, believed by many to hold both spiritual and nutritional properties. Some bury the placenta with a fruit tree, while others grind it up and put it in capsules as post-labor supplements for the mother. Do you know what your parents did with your placenta?

They don’t call it “the miracle of life” for nothing, and clichéd at it may sound, we heartily agree with the sentiment. The human body can do some extraordinary things, and birth and reproduction certainly rank at the top of the list.

Was your child’s birth a holy experience? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well for more “Holy Facts” every Monday!

Would You Eat Your Own Placenta After Giving Birth?

Would you help yourself to a big slice of your own placenta after popping out a baby? 

This writer on Salon.com did. As Holly Kretschmar explains in her personal essay detailing her journey from pregnancy to giving birth to eating her cooked placenta: 

In the West, the majority of placentas are dumped in the trash. But the placenta is considered sacred by some cultures. And virtually all mammals, including herbivorous ones, eat their afterbirth. Placentophagy, as it’s called, may be inspired by a new mother’s need for extra nutrients or her desire to erase the trace of her birth in order to throw off predators; there is also a theory that the placenta contains a pain-deadening molecule. ….

Esther, our doula, told me about the energy-restoring properties of the placenta, and how consuming it is an ancient practice, especially beneficial for warding off postpartum depression. She mentioned the growing movement in the natural birth community to encapsulate dehydrated placentas into pills, reputed to bestow mental and physical benefits to the mother over time. 

You will have to read the rest of the article to hear the extremely visceral details of the texture, smell and taste of afterbirth sauteed in soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Whether you find post-baby chow to be intriguing or absolutely disgusting, you gotta give some MAJOR kudos to the open-minded husband who voluntarily tried some of his wife’s placenta steak.

 In an separate TIME article, writer Joel Stein describes how his hippie wife decided to encapsulate her dehydrated placentas into pills as a way to help ward off postpartum depression and increase breast milk supply. Unlike the Salon article, this article is accompanied with a video that shows a placenta encapsulation specialist preparing some uncooked placenta (with umblical cord still attached) in all its gory glory.

(Warning: not recommended for the extremely squeamish) 

The afterbirth goop, by the end of the video, is transformed into a glass jar of pills. Hearing Stein’s reaction of receiving a small pouch of his son’s dried-up umblical cord from the placenta encapsulation specialist at the end of the video: hilarious. 

 Turns out that if you go to the Wikipedia entry page for placentogaphy, there are already external links to some placenta recipes, including a vegan placenta casserole. Which makes me wonder: can something be vegan if it includes placenta? 


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