I am writing this post as a follow-up to this article on the historical evidence against placenta consumption. Although I realize that Christians may disagree on this subject, I thought it would be helpful to assemble some of the principles in the Bible that may help an individual Christian to decide if placenta encapsulation or some other way of ingestion is in harmony with that person's conscience. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a Christian, you may find some of these arguments interesting.
The three main points that I feel are relevant to this discussion are these:
The Placenta is a Human Organ
Before my second child was born I mentioned to my mother that I was thinking about encapsulating the placenta. Her response was immediate.
I can't say that I agreed with her view right away, as I had been reading all about the various benefits to placenta encapsulation, and thought that she was being extreme and dismissive. But, I did later look up the definition of cannibalism.
Wikipedia defines 'cannibalism' in this way: "Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal."
Turns out Mom was right.
Romans 2:15 tells us: "They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them, and by their own thoughts they are being accused or even excused." Cannibalism is one of those things that we understand intuitively to be wrong. Our conscience tells us that to eat parts of other humans is not right. We just know it to be true; it's "written on our hearts".
Now I'm sure that the thousands of women who have had their placenta encapsulated would not like to be labeled as cannibals, but according to the definition of cannibalism, that is in fact what is happening. Given that cannibalism has been a taboo in nearly every other human culture, one that has only been broken in times of absolute famine, it's more apparent why placenta consumption has also been almost unheard of in human history. (Please see my other post for more information on the evidence for that statement).
Some argue that the mother is eating her OWN organ, so it's not cannibalism. However, the definition is not so specific. If a woman ate her OWN foot, would she be a cannibal? Yes. There is also the question as to whether the placenta belongs to the mother or to the baby. Given that the purpose of the placenta is to maintain the life of the baby, and is expelled after the baby is born, it seems most correct to refer to the placenta as belonging to the baby. So the mother is really eating her baby's placenta, which fits with the established definition of cannibalism. Personally, I do not wish to be a cannibal in any way.
The Placenta's purpose is to provide blood to the baby, but Christians were commanded to "abstain from blood".
Some readers may be familiar with Acts 15:28,29. This is when the apostles handed their decision to the congregation on the matter of circumcision. They were inspired to write that this practice was no longer necessary to be identified as one of God's worshippers, but they were to keep themselves from "things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality." They went on to say that they would prosper if they followed this counsel.
Although Christians can and eat the organs of animals that are properly bled, I can't help put feeling that because the entire purpose of the placenta is to provide blood to the baby from the mother, and, even when drained, it's quite a bloody organ, that eating it would violate my conscience, because I take this command to abstain from blood quite seriously. Another Christian may feel differently, but this may be a factor to consider for your own conscience.
The only verse that speaks of placenta consumption in the Bible paints it in a very negative light.
We can find this in Deuteronomy 28:56, 57. The context shows that God is explaining to the Israelites what will happen to them if they do not uphold their promise to follow his commandments. They will lose His protection, be overrun by the surrounding nations, and experience poverty and famine, to the point that "the most delicate and sensitive woman among you..will show no pity...even toward the afterbirth that comes from between her legs and towards the sons she bears, for she will secretly eat them because of the severity of the seige..."
According to this verse, eating the placenta is what might have been done when there is NO OTHER FOOD. It was done in secret, not celebrated. To consume the placenta was to be reduced to the level of the animals. While many believe that animals and humans are equal in importance, the Bible makes it clear in Genesis 1:26 that that humans are made in God's image, and that He made animals to be "in subjection" to humans. Again, this fits with what we know of human cultures traditionally regarding placenta consumption AND animals. Most mammals (aside from humans) DO consume the placenta after birth. But the vast majority of humans do not naturally do this, and never have.
Notes on Placentophagy, by W.B. Ober, is an article that is often cited by supporters of human placenta consumption. However a careful reading of this text will reveal that Ober found in his research that, again, historically uses for the placenta were almost entirely relegated to superstition or ceremonial uses. In fact, Ober refers to anthropologists who wonder about the distinction between man and beast, and says, "...an equally plausible distinction might be that man, that is, civilized man, does not eat his own placenta."
Not everyone believes that the Bible is inspired of God. But many do, and feel that the Creator's words to us are "beneficial for teaching and reproving and setting things straight. While the Bible doesn't tell us whether placenta consumption or encapsulation is right or wrong, I do feel that the message that we get from the Holy Scriptures is a cautionary one. Each person is responsible for their own decisions and conscience, and I certainly do not think badly of anyone who chooses to encapsulate the placenta, but personally I still have two in my freezer, waiting to be planted under a fruit tree next spring.
What do you think? Have you considered these arguments before?
I look at birth from the perspective that our bodies are wonderfully made, and if we really believe that and work with the birth process and nourish our bodies properly, they will function optimally, most of the time!