One mom's biohazardous waste is another's culinary jackpot, it seems.
While it's not exactly on everyone's dream menu, more and more women are choosing to keep -- and eat -- their placenta for its purported health benefits. There are even cookbooks out there, with suggestions on how to make the slimy organ palatable.
According to spokesperson, MairiAnna Bachynsky, for every 4,000 births a year Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre gets just three or four requests for a placenta.
But it's a growing trend, with certain doulas and midwives encapsulating or dehydrating placenta for human consumption.
Since Leanne Palmerston, a doula based in Hamilton, started to offer placenta pills about two years ago, she has prepped about two dozen. If her bookings are anything to go by, that number will double in the next year.
What was once considered the practice of New Age moms is gaining in popularity as women discover the health benefits of ingesting placenta -- the one-pound organ which serves to feed the baby in utero and which is expelled from the uterus after birth.
Putting aside the grotesque factor for a moment (because, truly, it is a revolting-looking organ), placenta is said to help boost energy levels, fight mood swings, and enhance milk production in new moms.
And really, once something is steamed, sliced, dehydrated and ground into powder, it's unrecognizable enough to stomach.
Toronto doula, Rean Cross, thinks so. “You have to get past the ick factor,” says Cross who performs the service for $150 for her clients.
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
“I felt I was on an even keel," said 36-year-old Davida Robertson, who took placenta pills after the birth of her daughter, Rae, in May 2010. "I wish people knew about it. I would definitely do it again. It’s not for everyone. Some people won’t be able to get past what it is, but you have to go in with an open mind. I’m proud I did it.”
Robertson claims her placenta, which produced more than a 100 pills, tasted "kind of primal, very earthy".
Although there aren't yet any scientific studies backing up the health benefits of eating placenta, moms who've tried it are convinced. The question is, would you?
When we think of Asian values, we tend to think in stereotypical terms: tradition. While divorce is still uncommon, the face of marriage in East Asia is changing.
According to report in the Economist, people aren't just postponing marriage till later in richer countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, many are remaining unmarried, full stop.
"A whopping third of Japanese women in their early 30s are unmarried; probably half of those will remain so. More than one-fifth of Taiwanese women in their late 30s are single; most will never marry."
One reason for this: more women are working and gaining higher education. Another: with divorce laws so strict, some women may steer clear of a knot that cannot easily be untied.
Another still: cultural mores dictate that women still bear the brunt of domestic responsibility with married Japanese women doing an average of 30 hours' housework on top of a 40-hour work week, with husbands doing just three.
But the old maid trend has serious repercussions in a country where women have invested little in the way of pensions and social security, assuming their families will look after them when they get old or ill.
What of the fate of the Japanese spinster, then? Do you see this trend carrying over to the West? Why/why not?
Author and law professor, Joel Bakan has a bone to pick with corporate America. In his new book, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children, Bakan claims there's something far more insidious out there than a clown with big red shoes.
"As parents we're being told, 'Do a better job, monitor these things, control your kids.' While at the same time, there's a multi-billion dollar industry that is driving a wedge between us, undermining our authority, undermining our influence."
Bakan cites websites like Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Neopets -- the 1999 phenomenon which has more than 40 million users worldwide and which sold to Nickelodeon in 2005 for a meagre US $160 million -- for monopolizing on the "deep caring and love kids feel for pets".
"Bottom line," said Bakan, "this is a very calculated way to target kids' emotions and to do it in ways that promotes (sic) compulsive, addictive behaviour in order to sell virtual goods and in order to attract kids to advertising from third-party advertisers."
What starts as an emotional investment in which kids create virtual homes to feed and obsessively monitor their 'pets', gradually turns into a very real financial investment whereby parents must fork out more and more money to ensure the pet doesn't suffer from ill health or unhappiness.
"We've gone from [McDonald's] to kids being basically immersed in marketing and advertising. They're no longer interrupting kids' lives; they're enveloping kids' lives."