Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Proof Is In The Placenta

For reasons having to do with the title of this post, this will have to be an anonymous posting. So, I have a friend who...

I have a fabulous friend who is very quiet about what she does with her family's diet. She is not out to convert the non-believers. She mostly sticks to her own business, tends not to talk too much about what she is doing for foods, and just supports people on their own personal food journeys. Happy to ask questions / answer questions but definitely not into converting people.

But it is a funny thing about leaders and leadership. Sometimes the quiet leaders move mountains. This is how I feel about her. She is the kind of person who made the decision to go on GAPS not out of desperation (as I did) or a well researched decision (as other friends did) or even out of hope after witnessing someone else's recovery (as still other friends did). She quietly read a book, considered the situation, and decided it just made sense and she would give it a try.

So during this quiet journey she was pregnant. I cannot remember exactly how pregnant when she began the journey but she was craving cheese if I remember the story correctly. So she began a "Full GAPS" diet for herself. She was open with the local midwife about what she was / was not eating and the midwife was mostly supportive but a little concerned.

Can you blame the midwife? I mean, how do any of us know what this diet will do? How do we know what is best for the baby? Is there a controlled test for pregnancy and GAPS? Of course not. So my friend, who was feeling better on this diet than she had felt with either of her other pregnancies (and keeping up with two young children, no less) paid more attention to her body than to the advice of the midwife. She read the book and believed the science, but mostly she just wanted to see where it led her since she was feeling good.

Our local midwife expressed concerns with her low weight gain toward the end of the pregnancy. My friend just stuck with "Full GAPS" because she was experiencing improved health and well-being. She did add some extra fruit and honey at the midwife's suggestion so she might gain a little extra weight at the end of the pregnancy, but otherwise she stayed on the course she had already charted for herself.

Then one day, her beautiful baby boy was born. He weighed a little over eight pounds. And then she delivered... the placenta of a lifetime. The midwife later commented that the placenta was one of the healthiest she had ever seen, and was thus deeply reassured that whatever this diet was doing was an awesome thing for this mama & baby. This from a midwife who has practiced for decades and seen thousands of placentas, is seriously worth noting.

Since then our midwife has had the opportunity to see three babies born while mamas were eating GAPS or mostly GAPS. All three babies are their mother's third child. As a friend of each of these women I myself cannot help but notice how large and healthy these third babies look. They have chunky thighs, big appetites, and are hitting all their milestones. In contrast, the second child for two of the women both had some health issues, some evident from a very young age. So it is remarkable to me that each of these three third babies are so healthy and large. Did I say large? One baby in particular is astounding to me, considering how tiny her two older sisters were when they were babies.

So the moms eat a lot of GAPS foods and fats and breastfeed their gorgeous beasts for babes. Lots of coconut product is being consumed and loads of egg yolks are being given as first foods. I will twist some arms soon for a good pregnancy round up + egg yolks to enhance language development posts!

But let's get back to the placenta. I'm not sure we gave it the attention it truly deserves.

There should really only ever be one particular opportunity for a woman to examine an internal organ and that is after delivering her placenta. It is the one organ that is expelled and just begs to be picked up, stretched, searched, and otherwise checked right after the baby is born. Women who are *really* into birth tend to be really into their placentas. Some people rub herbs into their placenta and leave it attached to the baby until it naturally falls away. Others encapsulate it and take it as a post-natal vitamin. Still others stick it in their freezer and throw bits into the blender for a super-health shake. I consider myself on the slippery slope to tribal but my second placenta is planted under ZiZi's special plant in our front yard and the new owners of our home next year will never be the wiser. But I digress...

It is said by experienced midwives that the health of the placenta is a good indicator of how well the child was sustained in the womb. If the placenta degrades upon expulsion, that kid barely made it out into the world with what he or she needed! Other times the placenta looks really healthy and the midwife may joke that the baby could have stayed in another week or more being nourished by that special organ.

So when a midwife says, "That is one great looking placenta," my ears perk up. This is important evidence to be considered and analysts are nothing, if not interested in analyzing the evidence! Our midwife's interest has been piqued by this evidence and hopefully we can begin a dialogue so that pregnant mothers in this town might eat healthier and deliver healthier babies.

In a somewhat related nugget of wisdom I was reading a neat passage to my oldest daughter a couple of weeks ago about how the Romans would decide whether or not a particular area was a good spot to build a town. They would kill a rabbit and check the health of its liver to determine whether the animal was healthy.

So if you use that sort of logic and consider whether or not the GAPS diet is a healthy one for the animal we call human beings, in our small population sample I believe the answer overwhelmingly is "Yes." Yes, you can grow fabulous placentas on this diet. Yes, your baby can be delivered at a wonderful, healthy size. Yes, you can breastfeed a baby and grow him or her to a wonderful, health, large size. And oh those chunky thighs. People will love to squeeze them. I'm talking about the baby's thighs...


  1. Hi Kati,

    Thank you for this! I'd kind of imagined that GAPS/WAPF style eating would build a healthy endometrial lining & healthy placenta but it is so nice to hear of evidence of that!

    Thanks again, loving this site.

    xo Miranda

  2. Thanks Kati. Great post. I'll send it to my midwife who will also likely be concerned I'm not eating grains.