Many cultures give a part of the placenta raw to the mother to reduce postpartum bleeding which is effective based on the amount of oxytocin in the placenta. Common medical treatment for postpartum bleeding includes uterine massage to encourage toning/contraction and medicating the mother with Pitocin which is the synthetic version of oxytocin.

Postpartum hemorrhage is bleeding more than 500mL within the first 24 hours after the birth of the baby. (500mL is equal to a little more than two cups.) After 24 hours, bleeding equaling that amount is called late postpartum hemorrhage. The normal loss of blood (after the initial birth bleeding) in the third stage is 200mL or less than one cup of blood. Any blood loss over one cup may make the mother weaker, heal more slowly, and will increase her risk to infection. Postpartum issues due to blood loss can include anemia, depression, infection, and breastfeeding difficulties. Different mothers have different blood loss tolerances.

Raw placental consumption has been historically applied to reduce postpartum bleeding which is effective based on the amount of oxytocin in the placenta. The placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic sac all contain oxytocin. However, the cord and sac contain much more than the placenta. It is unclear to the authors at this time of publication if the amount of oxytocin that could be reasonably consumed from the placenta could be systemically effective enough to help facilitate additional uterine contractions. The single serving, bite sized amount mothers typically take with this reasoning is certainly not sufficient to be of any medical good but likely provides a useful placebo effect.

Common Raw Placenta Consumption Methods

Traditionally the mother sucks on or swallows a small piece of the sac, cord, or a quarter-size piece of raw placenta. The palatability of the raw placenta can be increased by dipping the parts in honey first before swallowing or blending parts into a drinkable shot-amount of a ‘smoothie.’

Postpartum Hemorrhage & Maternal Mortality

It’s important to understand the seriousness of postpartum hemorrhage and to seek experienced diagnosis and medical treatment. Postpartum hemorrhage is normally experienced as slow, continuous bleeding over hours. “Studies of maternal deaths show that women have died from continuous bleeding of amounts which at the time were not alarming. It is not the sudden gush that kills, but the steady trickle. In a large series of cases, one researcher found that the average interval between delivery and death was 5 hours 20 minutes. No mothers died before 1 hour 30 minutes of giving birth.”[2]

It is also possible for concealed bleeding to occur—that is the uterus may fill with blood, which is lost to the mother but doesn’t ever present externally. The uterine fundus should be felt often to ensure it is not enlarging with concealed bleeding. Concealed bleeding can also accumulate behind a placenta that is blocking the cervix. Bleeding will only increase as the passage to the birth canal is blocked by the placenta, so it must be removed.

Part of the danger of postpartum hemorrhage is that the pulse and blood pressure indicate little warning because of the body’s protective vascular mechanisms. When the protective systems can no longer be maintained, the vital signs swing, and the mother goes into shock. Shortness of breath is closely followed by chills, sweating, and finally coma. So, I wish to stress again for readers who may be considering unassisted birth, or who are hoping placental supplementation will be an adequate ‘treatment’ for hemorrhage that this is likely not an effective treatment based on how much oxytocin is bio-available in the placenta. 

For complete instructions from the head placenta encapsulation trainer at Brilliant Birth Academy on the method of raw placenta consumption in a smoothie and to get the download about smoothie recipes voted to best hide the flavor of placenta, click here

Causes of Hemorrhage

  • Ineffective contractions in the first and second stages of labor warn of ineffective contraction in the third stage
  • A long, difficult labor resulting in a fatigued uterus and/or maternal exhaustion or distress
  • A long, difficult labor resulting in maternal exhaustion or distress
  • Retained placenta (whole or fragments)
  • Lacerations of cervix or vagina
  • Uterine rupture or inversion
  • Incomplete separation of the placenta
  • Distended bladder
  • A large baby, high levels of amniotic fluid, or multiples cause an enlarged uterus and predisposes to poor contraction
  • Polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) will distend the uterus and make the efforts for a reduction in size to be more similar to a multiples pregnancy
  • A uterus that has carried four or more children is more prone to fatigue
  • A mother who is distraught over the condition of a compromised infant is at higher risk for hemorrhage because of her hormonal response
  • In preterm delivery, the mother will have less blood volume than a delivery at term, and the placenta will be more firmly attached.
  • Uterine tumors can impede effective postpartum contractions.
  • Kneading or massaging the uterus before the placenta has detached[1]

[1] Oxorn-Foot. Human Labor & Birth. 5th Edition. Appleton-Century-Crofts Publishers. 1986, pp 480-481

[2] Oxorn-Foot. Human Labor & Birth. 5th Edition. Appleton-Century-Crofts Publishers. 1986, pp 480.

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