setting the scene: i spent some time last night in a friend's closet, cuddling her kitty who just became a mama. she had 4 kittens latched onto her, blissing out on the hormone rush that comes along with nursing new babies. their eyes still closed from birth, feeling around with their tiny paws, they wiggled and writhed.
getting to the point: i'm describing this scene at the risk of sounding like a 12 year old girl who likes kittens and puppies and flowers and jumprope. what makes that risk worthwhile, is what i noticed on the kittens' tummies: their umbilical cords still attached, drying up and getting ready to fall off. noticing their umbilical stumps set off a chain of realizations...
1) umbilical cords are connected at one end to the kitten, and at the other end to the placenta.
2) placentas are born after the kittens/babies/whatever.
3) most mammals eat the placentas of their young after birth. this is called placentophagy.
4) human cultures throughout time have been observed doing the same, and many folks still do.
placentophagy: the more natural-birth-leaning subculture in north america is getting pretty big on the practice of placentophagy, either with the mom eating a part of the placenta after birth, or having it encapsulated and using it as a supplement for weeks or months after the birth. it's generally believed (no, i don't know of any scientific studies) that the hormone rich tissue of the placenta can help to ward off postpartum depression and help the new mom feel more balanced and more quickly recovered. many women save whatever placenta pills they hasve left over and use them as a supplement to bring hormonal balance during menopause, later in life. as a doula, i've encapsulated several clients placentas, and all the mamas have raved about having access to their placentas and their benefits.
watching these kittens and realizing that their mama probably stiill had a tummy full of fresh placenta was really neat. whatever you think of the idea of placentophagy, and whether you would do it personally or not, it's a reminder to us all that we, at a base level, are animals too. imagine our earliest ancestors, chillin' in a cave somewhere, giving birth and then having this fantastic protein packed snack afterwards. yummmmmm.