In America, most people view the placenta as just messy after birth that needs to be discarded. However a look at history reveals that, traditionally, the placenta has been honored in many cultures. The placenta is often treated respectfully and is used in some sort of ritual. Many cultures believe that the way a placenta is treated after the birth will some how effect the child's life - for good or for bad. Although most mammals consume their placenta, history shows that traditional cultures usually preform a burial for the placenta. Here is a look at a few of the cultural beliefs surrounding the placenta:
In Cambodia, people believe that the placenta is the origin of the soul. The traditional belief is that if it's not buried the correct way, it could do long term damage to the mother's mental health.
In India, women do not consider their birth complete (or successful) until the placenta has been expelled. Proper burial is supposed to prevent bad luck.
A recommendation for women in Japan who can't get pregnant is to sleep over a newly buried placenta.
The birth is not announced until the placenta has been delivered, at which time they announce the birth by singing and dancing in the street.
In Malaysia, they believe that the placenta is the second sibling. They also believe that when a baby smiles, he or she is playing with her second sibling. They treat the burial of the placenta as they would the burial of a baby.
In Russia, it is ideal that the cord not be cut until 24 hours after the placenta has been delivered to ensure that the baby receives enough cosmic energy. There are several different traditions in Russia. An old Russian tradition is to bury the placenta under the corner of the house. Some also view the placenta as the baby's sibling and hold a funeral for it. Others consume the placenta for health benefits.
There is a small group of women in South Africa that retain a small portion of their placenta to make "muti"; the rest of the placenta is then buried. Muti is then given to women experiencing infertility to help increase their fertility.
In Transylvania, when a couple decides that they do not want any more children the father drinks a concoction made of the final child's burnt placenta and ashes.
As you can see, there have been many varied traditions throughout history when it comes to the placenta. However, there is one thing they all have in common. Most cultures recognize and respect the importance of the placenta. I believe that the rise of placenta encapsulation in the Untied States is tied to our traditional instincts that surround the importance of the placenta!