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PlacentaI’m a big fan of reading the Best of Craiglist because it is such a fascinating, hilarious and gross sampling of humanity’s highs and lows. It’s also fun trying to guess which of the posts are written sincerely and which ones are total fabrications that are purposely meant to be jaw-dropping. One such “Is this real or not?” Craigslist post a reader sent me was this one:

I am due in June. I have read a lot about how great for your health it is to eat your placenta (after all, most mammals, even vegetarians, do this). Unfortunately I don’t have a strong enough stomach to just eat it, so it was recommended to me that I dry it out in a food dehydrator, put it in a coffee grinder, and put it in capsules to take daily. Again, I just don’t have the stomach (and may not have the energy after birth to do this.) What I need is someone who is reliable…someone who has given birth or watched a birth, knows what a placenta looks/smells like/etc, who is 100% comfortable handling something like this. I have read that it can take up to 10 hours of work. Please e-mail me why you would be willing to do this and how much you would charge.

There’s something about this ad that is really beautiful (that mythical quality of ingesting the power of the placenta) and sweet (OMG, dude, after giving birth, you’re happy to eat just about ANYTHING that someone else has cooked for you). But there’s also something about it, too, that points to the growing list of things that perfect mothers are supposed to do. You can’t just squeeze the watermelon out from between your legs in a beautiful, orgasmic, fast-but-not-too-fast, doula and midwife-assisted home birth while wearing a white nightgown in a candlelit room (and that’s just the birth! Forget about actually raising the kid!). You’ve got to worry about processing the placenta into a palatable form; otherwise, you’re wasting the power of mother nature. Seriously, after living through birth, I’d had just about enough of mother nature, thankyouverymuch.

That’s why I’m wondering: does anyone actually know anyone who actually ate the placenta? Or does this exist strictly at the level of urban myth?


still4, from The Business of Being BornYou know that feeling when you’re reading the paper and you come across a story that makes you think, “Some researcher got funded to study the obvious? And then come up with findings that are…obvious?” That’s the feeling I had when I stumbled across this story from last Friday’s Globe and Mail. “A nosh during labour not ‘a bad thing,’” reads the headline, referring to the shitty advice old adage advising women against eating during the labour process, ’cause if you have to have a C-section, and if you have to have general anesthetic during a C-section, then you might barf and breathe in the barf and die.


Then there is common sense: being in labour is akin to sprinting as hard and fast as you can for a minute at a time, every few minutes, for many hours or days. The ol’ bod just might need some sustenance to get through that process.

But thank goodness the science people have come on side with what birth mothers and midwives already know!

British researchers conducted a large trial involving 2,426 women having their first child. Half of them were told to eat a small amount of food such as bread, biscuits, fruits, non-fat yogurt, isotonic drinks and fruit juice. The others were advised to drink only water and chew on ice chips. The results, published in the British Medical Journal, revealed that the rate of vomiting was almost identical in both groups – about 35 per cent.

The only thing that’s really surprising here is that only 35% of women barfed in labour. To me, hurling while trying to squeeze out my daughter seemed pretty routine. Here’s the oh-so-shocking closer:

“So, over all, we basically found eating wasn’t a bad thing,” said senior researcher Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics at King’s College London. [...] He added that the study participants who were given the option to eat “felt more in control and certainly liked it.”

Gee, you think?

I’m happy this research was conducted because it might actually change obstetrical practices for the better. And yes, hospitals, parents and birth attendants need and want the best-quality information about how to make births safe. But come on! You do not need an empirical study to know that having the option to eat during labour makes life a teensy bit better for the labouring woman (and therefore the expectant baby) and does not make the process any less safe. Intuition, basic biological facts (I’m hungry = I need to eat) and anecdotal evidence should suffice.