The Mad Men season premiere was big news, but new mom January Jones made headlines of her own by announcing her decision to have her placenta encapsulated and the benefits she’s seen from taking the pills. “Your placenta gets dehydrated and made into vitamins,” she explained. “It’s something I was very hesitant about, but we’re the only mammals who don’t ingest our own placentas.”
The revelation was largely met with an online chorus of “Ew, gross!” from reporters and online commenters, combined with a few attempts to explain the practice, along the lines of “Well, cats do it…” Personally, I did a little fist shake of victory when I read about it: I plan to encapsulate and consume my placenta, too, and every prominent women who talks about doing it makes my own decision seems a bit less extreme. And a bit less, well, disgusting.
Believe me, nobody is more surprised about this decision than I am. When I first heard about placenta consumption, about five years ago, I deemed it about one step above witchcraft. Reading an examination of the practice, called placentophagia, in New York Magazine last year didn’t change my mind much. A placenta has served its very important purpose once the baby is out, I figured, and discarding it along with all the other bio-hazard waste is just the sensible thing to do. I didn’t keep my wisdom teeth once those were removed, I reasoned, and I wouldn’t need to keep my placenta either.
Fast forward a few years, and now I’m expecting – and planning to hire my doula to take my placenta home, dehydrate it, and put it into little capsules that I can pop post birth. I’m surprisingly not really bothered by the though of taking a couple of the hundred or so pills I’ll get with my morning smoothie. I can’t say that I’d be up for tossing a hunk of afterbirth in that smoothie or cooking it up in a stew – though for the interested, there’s no shortage of recipes online – but I’m otherwise pretty relaxed about the whole idea.
What changed? I’ve definitely moved closer to the hippie side of the spectrum overall, but the biggest factor in this choice is the fact that I’ve dealt with several serious episodes of clinical depression over the course of my adult life. My depression is being managed well now, but since becoming pregnant I’ve learned that my history puts me at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression after my baby is born – and frankly, I’m terrified.