Parenting 101: How to tell a placenta from a playcentre
Hi, my name is Ryan Astle and I have a placenta in my freezer. Well, two of them if I’m being completely honest. They’re in Tip Top ice cream containers next to the mixed vege. One’s been in there for over three years.
Am I a psychopath? Valid question.
There was this one time I pinned my brother down and let spit dangle out of my mouth perilously close to his face so he would admit that he’d been cheating in backyard cricket. And by “one time”, I mean most weekends from the ages of 6 to about 13 when he got big enough to defend himself. And by “perilously close” I mean that often it was too late to suck the spit back up. To be fair, he was cheating most of the time, I’m talking like more than 20% of the time.
Sorry, I’m digressing, what I’m trying to say is that sure, I might be a bit unstable, but don’t judge me as a psychopath on the basis that I have placentas in my freezer. They’re in there for a reason.
No, not really, I’m not that alternative. We have been meaning to plant them under a tree at Christchurch’s Victoria Park. It’s a thing. Other people do it, I swear. We just haven’t got around to it. I do think about it sometimes, mainly when I raid the freezer in search of ice cream, see two tubs, get super excited… and then soul-crushingly disappointed when I remember what’s in them and that I’m a lazy bastard that hasn’t sorted planting them yet. Annoyingly, this makes my desire for ice cream even greater. Thank God though that our power hasn’t gone out in the last three and a half years. I don’t imagine the stench of defrosted placenta would be amazing.
It still amazes me that people eat them. It’s even got a name – placentophagy. Sure, I’ve eaten seagull eggs, paua guts, sheep testicles, sheep eyeballs, huhu grubs, and horse semen (Please note that this was part of the Hokitika Wild Food Festival, I wasn’t just wandering around paddocks guzzling things down), but I draw the line at placenta.
I think it probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve been scarred ever since seeing photos of them at antenatal classes. I mean the photos were bad enough that they were passed around in a sealed envelope and people got the choice whether they wanted to see them or not. It reminded me of the scene at the end of The Hangover where everyone agrees to look at the photos once and then destroy them.
I get that deers, and the like, partake in placentophagy in order to hide any trace of childbirth from predators in the wild. I mean, I guess I’d probably force a placenta down if the other option was being devoured by wolves. But most humans don’t have that problem, and we don’t need any nutrients from placenta because we already get it in our diets.
Some who advocate placentophagy in humans believe that eating the placenta prevents postpartum depression. Not to make light of a serious subject, but I’m not really surprised with that finding because surely you’d no longer be depressed from giving birth, you’d be depressed from eating placenta.
Human placenta has also been an ingredient in some traditional Chinese medicines to treat impotence and a number of other conditions. Now, I’m no doctor, but seriously, treating impotence with placenta. I can’t think of anything less that would get my juices flowing.
Whereas some tribes believe that the placenta continues to be the “nourishing mother of the child” and the placenta is clothed in infant clothes after birth.
Placental reverence has been observed as far back as 3000BC in ancient Egypt. The royal placenta was carried in procession before the king by a pole bearer who had to have the organ and cord dangling for all to see. The kings’ health and destiny were linked to this “bundle of life” and it would accompany the Pharaoh at state and religious ceremonies.
Christ, imagine that being your job. Sure you’d get some sweet travel perks, but the stress of having to look after the Kings “bundle of life” would be immense. How could you ever sleep with the fear that a stray dog might come in for a nibble?
While on our travels through Peru we went to the Museum in Arequipa where Juanita is kept. Juanita is a well-preserved frozen body of an Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the gods sometime between 1450 and 1480. A number of similar ice mummies have been found on Mt Ampato owing to melting caused by volcanic ash from the nearby erupting volcano. We were told that in some instances they were found with bits of placenta. Apparently, parents would keep it and feed their children a bit if they fell ill. Just imagine if that was still the practice today. Kids would never fake being sick to stay at home. Ever.
Today it’s not uncommon to find placental extracts in skin and moisturizing creams, shampoos, hair conditioners and face creams. What’s next?
Actually, I may be able to answer that. Whilst in Peru we also found out that the Aymara Indians wash their hair in their own urine. Be sure to watch out for that marketing campaign.
Oh, and finally, in case you were wondering here’s the difference between a playcentre and a placenta:
Playcentre is an early childhood education and parenting organisation which operates parent-led early childhood education centres throughout New Zealand.
Head over to DadMan’s for some ice cream and you’ll find out.

You may also like