What Happens During Labor?
During labor, the placenta is still very much in the game making sure the baby gets everything it needs during this crucial time. "It serves the same functions as during pregnancy," says Dr. Mark Chag from Harbour Women's Health in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "Because of the added stress of the labor on the baby, it must function adequately to deliver adequate oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide."
Dr. Chag says that shortly after the birth of the baby the placenta delivers on its own, which is probably why it's often called "after-birth."
Interesting Things to Do with It
While there has been an age-old rumor of women cooking and eating their own placentas, the practice is generally frowned upon in western culture. Another rumored practice is that the placenta is frozen then given to the mother in capsule form to help ward off postpartum depression and other post-childbirth problems. Whether or not this is true has yet to be scientifically proven. But women can find plenty of interesting things to do with their placentas should they want to.
"I gave birth to both of my kids at home," says Nicole Deranleau, a mother of two from Hillsboro, Oregon. "The placentas were carefully wrapped and placed into our freezer to be buried at a later date, maybe planting a tree over them. My children are now 8 and 5, and those placentas are still in our freezer! One of them has moved houses with us three times! With all seriousness, we do intend on burying them; I think we've just been waiting to feel like we've landed someplace where we will stay for a long time."
"I neither kept, planted nor ate my placentas after my babies' births, but our midwives helped my boys make placenta prints (no kidding) after my daughter was born," says Melisa Crosby, a mother of three from Portland, Oregon. "I don't know if this was just to keep them busy or what, but they did have these weird, splotchy, bloody prints to show off ... I got to keep the baby—that was enough for me."
Whether or not you do something interesting with your placenta is up to you, but it is worth knowing just how important this small part of your pregnancy is. And like the health of the pregnancy, the health of your placenta is due in part to the effort a mother puts into taking care of herself.